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from Photographers' Blog:

A country armed to the teeth

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Jihana, Yemen

By Khaled Abdullah

If you are looking for an AK-47, a sniper rifle or even an anti-aircraft gun, it takes only half-an-hour of shopping around in this arms market, one of Yemen's biggest weapons markets, to find one.
The market is located in Jihana, a village some 30 kilometers (18 miles) southeast of the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

Yemen is one of the countries most heavily armed with deadly weapons.

Although this is mainly a tribal society where tribes are armed to the teeth, there are still too many guns for sale in the country's robust arms markets, as if the entire population must be armed. "Here, you can get fully armed as you can be," Jihana arms dealer Mohammad Sharaf said. An AK-47 can cost between $700 and $1,700 depending on age, make and quality. The only man shop owners do not welcome is a photojournalist. Many of them believe that the more publicity their market gets the more government crackdown they receive.

"Please go away!" shouted one trader in Jihana. "We don't need more problems because of you mediamen!" shouted another. But some were happy to display their goods; machine guns, assault rifles and pistols to the camera.

In an attempt by the Yemeni government to control the arms trade, it launched a nationwide campaign in 2007 to close arms bazaars, including Jihana, and although police forced around 300 weapons shops in 18 arms bazaars to close, the shops were allowed to reopen just six months later.

from The Great Debate:

Obama can close Guantanamo

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At his news conference on Tuesday, President Barack Obama for the first time in years spoke about the controversial detention center at Guantanamo Bay, which he had promised to close when he first took office.

“Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe,” Obama said, responding to a reporter’s question. “It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.” He went on to acknowledge that more than half the detainees have been officially cleared for release.

from Photographers' Blog:

Yemen’s “untouchables”

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Houdieda, Yemen

By Khaled Abdullah

The “Arab Spring” revolutions have helped societies in countries throughout the Middle East achieve hopes of change. But in Yemen, one group is still a long way from achieving its dreams.

GALLERY: YEMEN'S UNTOUCHABLES

The Akhdam, Yemen's marginalized black minority, has suffered for centuries from perpetual discrimination and cultural persecution, and they are seen as "untouchables" at the bottom of the country’s social hierarchy.

from Global Investing:

Easy business trend in emerging Europe

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Polish central bank governor Marek Belka doesn't apportion a lot of importance to the fact that Poland can boast the second biggest improvement in the latest World Bank's ease of doing business index, after Kosovo.

"This year we have improved, but I don’t care too much about it,"  Belka said at a meeting in London today.

from Full Focus:

Images of May

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WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
International pressure mounted on the Assad regime in Syria following a massacre of 108 people, nearly half of them children, in the Houla region. Olympic hopefuls trained for the London Games in far flung locations and Joplin, Missouri, marked one year since tornadoes ripped through the area.

from The Great Debate:

Yemen needs an insurgent democracy

After months of uncertainty around whether Ali Abdullah Saleh has been sincere about stepping down from his post as Yemen’s president, Sunday brought confirmation that he has left the country to seek medical treatment in the United States. Under a deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council with United Nations, United States and United Kingdom assistance, Saleh is barred from partaking in the Feb. 21 elections for an interim president. In exchange, he received immunity in an unamendable law -- both nationally and internationally highly controversial -- passed by Yemen’s parliament the day before his departure.

And yet Saleh made it immediately clear that he intended to return to Yemen before the elections to lead his General People’s Congress party, which holds a majority of seats in parliament. This is, of course, somewhat reminiscent of the last time Saleh left Yemen for medical treatment in June 2011. Following a bomb attack on the presidential palace which left several senior government officials dead and Saleh and others seriously injured, he sought treatment in Saudi Arabia amid hopes he would step down from office. He returned to Sana’a as president at the end of September. While Saleh will not be able to hold this office again, his intention of continuing to play a major role in the future of Yemen taints the otherwise good news of his departure.

from Oddly Enough Blog:

What’s wrong with this picture?

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Blog Guy, I've been seeing photos of well-armed rebels in Yemen in recent days, and I notice a lot of swollen cheeks. Are those plucky lads in need of major dental care?

No, don't worry about that. These guys are just getting stoned on a leaf called qat.

from Oddly Enough Blog:

Look at the scythe of that knife!

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Honey, I'm goin' shoppin' downtown. You want anything?

I sure do, Earl. We need skim milk, tuna fish, Hostess Ding Dongs, and darn, there was something else...

Oh yeah, daggers! We've got some birthdays coming up and daggers make great gifts.

from Afghan Journal:

Drone strikes are police work, not an act of war?

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Launching an air strike in another nation would normally be considered an act of aggression. But advocates of America's rapidly expanding unmanned drone programme don't see it that way.

They are arguing, as Tom Ricks writes on his blog The Best Defense over at Foreign Policy, that the campaign to kill militants with missile strikes from these unmanned aircraft, is more like police action in a tough neighbourhood than a military conflict.

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