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NEWSFLASH: Need-to-Know Stories 12/15 - 12/21


This week, South Sudan entered a state of unrest as the President accused his former Vice President of staging a coup d'etat, setting warring factions against each other. Back in the U.S., the American government is trying to mitigate the backlash that has resulted from the arrest of Indian official Deyvani Khobragade, who was arrested for allegedly underpaying her children's nanny. Russian President Vladimir Putin also made headlines this week by releasing long-imprisoned oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who has since flied to Berlin without showing any repentance for opposing Putin. Finally, the ceiling of London's Apollo Theatre collapsed Thursday night, injuring a few dozen theatergoers and prompting building inspections.

Welcome back to NEWSFLASH, giving you the week's biggest stories!

South Sudan Erupts In Civil Unrest

The world’s newest country plunged into disarray last week in a conflict now exacerbated by political, ethnic and economic concerns.

South Sudanese President Salva Kir accused his former Vice President Riek Machar of attempting a coup d’état, giving rise to factions of rebel troops that are wrestling control from the central government.

As the government attempts to solidify its hold over the capital, Juba, Machar has claimed the state of Unity near the Sudan-South Sudan border. Unity serves as South Sudan’s biggest oil producer, accounting for 95% of the country’s economy.

Gangs of Nuer and Dinka troops are also fighting one another, giving rise to a rivalry between two ethnic groups within South Sudan.

While the conflict has not yet been ruled a civil war, violence is quickly spreading across the country. Foreign troops have also been targeted, with two Indian peacekeepers killed in an airstrike and four U.S. soldiers injured as their aircraft was shot at during evacuation procedures.

U.S. And India At Odds Over Indian Diplomat’s Arrest

The arrest of an Indian consular official has momentarily darkened U.S.-India relations and shed a new light on the treatment of domestic workers everywhere.

Deyvani Khobragade, 39, was arrested in New York on fraud accusations that she attempted to circumvent “U.S. law designed to protect from exploitation the domestic employees of diplomats and consular officials.” Khobragade was taken into custody after dropping her daughters off at school.

According to U.S. officials, Khobragade falsified documents stating that she would pay her children’s nanny $4,500 per month. The nanny’s true salary, however, was only a mere $573 per month, almost $4,000 less than what official documents promised.

The Indian government is outraged at the police’s treatment of Khobragade, who was reportedly strip searched and held in a cell with common criminals.

Since then, Secretary of State John Kerry has stepped forward to smooth over the incident. But India has responded by banning cheap alcohol and food imports to the U.S. Embassy in the country.

Putin Releases Imprisoned Oil Tycoon

After a decade of imprisonment near the Russia-Finland border, former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was released unconditionally by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Khodorkovsky, 50, was arrested in October 2013 by Putin and convicted on charges of fraud. Russian and international citizens alike suspected that Khodorkovsky’s conviction served a political purpose, as the powerful businessman was a staunch critic of Putin.

The Russian President stated that “principles of humanity” influenced his decision to release Khodorkovsky. Khodorkovsky issued a plea on November 12 that asked for Putin’s pardon so that he could visit his ailing mother in Berlin.

However, no admission of guilt accompanied the request, indicating that Khodorkovsky believes that he has done no wrong in opposing Putin’s actions.

Experts have determined that Khodorkovsky’s release shows that Putin is confident in his control over Russia, as the President would most likely have kept the oil tycoon imprisoned if the latter could threaten Putin. Others have suspected that Putin set Khodorkovsky free to mitigate the backlash that has followed his banning of gay athletes’ in the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Apollo Theatre Ceiling Collapse Sends Dozens to Hospital

The roof of London’s Apollo Theatre caved in on Thursday night and injured dozens of spectators, many of whom were rushed to hospitals around Central London.

Up to 76 people were hurt during a performance of “The Curious Incident of the Dog During the Nighttime” when the famous theatre’s ceiling creaked and collapsed onto theatergoers, taking down parts of the balcony section.

Seven people have reportedly sustained serious injuries, though they are expected to recover soon.

By Saturday, the initial safety checks for the theater had been completed. Investigators have confirmed that the collapse did not spring from any criminal motive, though people have claimed that the theater suffered “years of neglect” that could have likely caused the roof to cave in.

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