The United States announced plans to move 9,000 Marines out of Okinawa. The plan follows years of talks with Japan over the presence of U.S. forces and coincides with President Barack Obama's push to strengthen military presence in other parts of the Pacific. About 5,000 U.S. military personnel will rotate to Guam, 2,700 will be sent to Hawaii, and others to a base in Darwin, Australia.
Jordan's parliament has voted to ban the Muslim Brotherhood. The lower house voted 83-46 to prevent the establishment of any political party on a "religious basis," in a move that would block Islamist parties from running in upcoming elections. If the measure wins expected upper house approval, it would disqualify the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the Muslim Brotherhood's political party, from taking part in parliamentary elections. A trend? Earlier this week, Libya also took steps to ban religious parties, and Egypt has disqualified some religious candidates in upcoming elections. The move shows a determination to roll back the gains made by Islamist parties during the Arab Spring uprisings. But banning the parties outright is something that got Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in trouble-and fanned resentment into increased support for those groups.
- In Libya, three explosive packages detonated today near a Benghazi courthouse, injuring one.
- In Ukraine, an explosion at a cinema and later at a tram stop today in the city of Dnipropetrovsk. Reports of injured are climbing to 27 now, and there are unconfirmed reports of a third explosion.
- In Syria, a suicide bombing today in Damascus has killed at least nine people and wounded 20. Residents report an uptick in Damascus of gunfire and explosions signaling that, instead of following a UN ceasefire protocol, government forces and rebels are moving their confrontation into the center of the capital.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz warned that the collapse of the EU is a "realistic scenario."
The blind Christian legal activist Chen Guangcheng is free and "100 percent safe" after he escaped house arrest in China. Chen has been held and at times beaten in his home for the past 19 months, preceded by four years in prison for exposing forced abortions and sterilizations in his province. But advocates worry now about the safety of his wife, children, and other family, whom Chen apparently left behind.
Need a long weekend read? The foreign policy establishment, in this case the Council on Foreign Relations in its May/June issue of Foreign Affairs, is admitting that, while some developing countries are burdened with their population, a bigger problem is the "Baby Gap," lower birth rates across the broader developed world.
All week the Twittersphere has been buzzing about Foreign Policy's "Why Do They Hate Us?" The look at the abuse of women across the Middle East (with a few jabs at the West) finds "women are silenced by a deadly combination of men who hate them while also claiming to have God firmly on their side." It's a wide-lens look at polygamy, female circumcision, virginity tests, and even female driving.