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Into the Woods: singing stars align for what may be Disney’s darkest tale INSP 18/12/2014

A-list director Rob Marshall's take on the smash hit Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods sees beloved fairy tale characters collide in what may be Disney’s darkest tale. It features an all-signing, all-dancing cast that’s packed with fresh talent, including Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt and Chris Pine, as well as Hollywood royalty Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp. “Right from the beginning, I said this is a unique piece, it’s a dark piece for Disney,” said Marshall when the directors spoke to INSP’s Laura Kelly, along with stars Anna Kendrick and James Corden, ahead of the film’s UK release on January.

Anti-immigration protests grow in Germany Reuters 18/12/2014

Support is growing for new grass-roots movement that blasts the German government for ignoring its fears of being overrun by Muslims and other immigrants. A recent march held by PEGIDA, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, in Dresden attracted a record 15,000 supporters. Since October, the movement has drawn support from the far-right as well as some ordinary Germans alarmed by a sharp rise in refugees, many fleeing conflict in the Middle East. Despite many Government officials condemning the movement, similar rallies are taking place across Germany, Reuters reports.

In photos: Palestinian youths perform parkour in Gaza war zone Reuters 18/12/2014

Amid the chaos, destruction and devastation in Gaza, Palestinian youths have found a perfect use for the rubble that surrounds them: a training ground for parkour. This Reuters photo series follows a group of young Palestinians aged between 13 and 17 as they practice their parkour skills over the ruins of houses, which witnesses said were destroyed during a seven-week Israeli offensive in the Shejaia neighborhood east of Gaza City.

New York state bans pet tattooing, piercing Reuters 18/12/2014

New York is banning pet tattoos and piercing under a state law aimed at curbing the “trendy” practice of inking or even maiming animals to make fashion statements. The decision comes after controversies over pet owners tattooing or piercing animals and circulating those images on the Internet. In March 2013, a man from Brooklyn tattooed his pit bull while the dog was unconscious during spleen surgery and posted a photo of the ink work on social media. Violators of the law, which applies to dogs, cats and all other pets, face up to $250 in fines and up to 15 days imprisonment.

OPINION: How climate change and inequalities will impact women IPS 18/12/2014

How climate change can aggravate inequality, particularly for women living in poor countries, where their lives are often directly dependent on the natural environment, is a topic considered by Susan McDade, UN Development Programme Deputy Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, in this opinion piece for IPS. “The success of climate change actions depend on elevating women’s voices, making sure their experiences and views are heard at decision-making tables and supporting them to become leaders in climate adaptation,” she says.

AIDS response is leaving African men behind IPS 17/12/2014

Research reveals that, across Africa, men have lower rates of HIV testing, enrollment on antiretroviral treatment, adherence, viral load suppression and survival, than women. As of December 2012, men represented only 36 percent of all people on antiretroviral therapy (ART) in Africa, according to the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Some experts argue that the focus of public health services across Africa on maternal and child health, coupled with successful advocacy for women’s special vulnerabilities around HIV, have overshadowed the needs of men.

Brian Cox on the wonders of comets and perils of Christmas trees The Big Issue UK 15/12/2014

Thanks to his popular BBC television shows exploring the wonders of the universe, Professor Brian Cox has become bigger than the cosmos. The particle physics professor’s fame is a by-product of his mission to bring science to the masses, so he more than anyone else was thrilled that the pro-science wing of Twitter was recently ablaze with news of the #CometLanding. He spoke to The Big Issue in the UK about comets (“scientifically an absolute goldmine”) Christmas and his peer David Attenborough.

Benedict Cumberbatch: "I increasingly feel the need to step back" The Big Issue UK 15/12/2014

From the voice of the dragon Smaug in The Hobbit trilogy to his role as the villainous Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness, and his take on super sleuth Sherlock Holmes, British actor Benedict Cumberbatch has proved himself to be a highly talented and bankable Hollywood star. Speaking about his portrayal of Alan Turing in his latest film, ‘The Imitation Game’, Cumberbatch said: "I've played straight up heroes and comic fools and kids next door but the oddballs, the outsiders - Sherlock, Assange, Turing - they spike.” He spoke to Jane Graham from The Big Issue in the UK.

“Mass incarceration is the biggest stain on American culture since slavery” The Contributor - USA 15/12/2014

After five years at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, USA, former prison chaplain Jeannie Alexander decided she could no longer stay in an environment controlled by individuals and policies that she describes as the complete opposite to her own beliefs. Alexander has now started an organization called the No Exceptions Prison Collective that aims to work to end mass incarceration as it stands today in Tennessee. The Contributor reports.

US breast cancer survivors find solace StreetWise - USA 15/12/2014

Chicago-based non-profit Imerman Angels provides one-on-one mentorship for cancer survivors and caregivers across America, where 1.6 million people are diagnosed with cancer every year. Chicago street paper StreetWise found out more about the invaluable support offered by the non-profit’s scheme. “I don’t want anyone to experience those dark lonely days that I did,” says one Mentor Angel. The article also includes an interview with street paper vendor Melinda Rogers, who is in remission after battling cancer off and on for 20 years, sometimes homeless and, until recently, always alone.

“Toxic soldiers” wage war on US Army for chemical poisoning Street Roots - USA 15/12/2014

“I was willing to die for my country. I just never thought I’d be dying like this,” says Laynie Roland, from Portland, USA, who is one of thousands of army veterans who claim they were poisoned by chemicals at Ft. McClellan in Alabama, USA. Many of those who worked and lived on the base remain unaware of the potential health risks associated with their time spent there. Doctors told Roland, who’s been plagued by illness since training with the US Army at Ft. McClellan, that she is, “literally being eaten from the inside out.” Roland recounts her experiences and the fight for justice to Portland street paper, Street Roots.

Piecing together the “divided states of America” Real Change - USA 15/12/2014

In his book, “The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America,” George Packer tells the story of a country fractured by economic inequality, where the forces that once held its people together are coming apart. The New Yorker staff writer and author spoke to Seattle street paper Real Change about what he sees as the unravelling of the American Dream.

30 years on from the Bhopal gas disaster and the long fight for justice The Big Issue in the North - UK 15/12/2014

After 30 years, there is renewed hope for the victims of the worst industrial disaster in history. The death toll caused by a gas leak at a factory in Bhopal in 1984 is thought to have reached over 25,000. Entire families were wiped out, thousands of children were orphaned and those who survived were left with debilitating injuries. The Big Issue in the North reports on steps being taken to finally bring those responsible to account.

Inequality between super rich and poor harms global economy The Big Issue UK 15/12/2014

When it comes to commenting on the global rich-poor divide, one particularly startling fact often quoted is this: 'The world's richest 85 people own as much wealth as the bottom half of the global population.' What does this really mean? The Big Issue UK’s Adam Forrest investigates the facts and figures behind the sound-bite.

Afghanistan's Bruce Lee 'reincarnation' becomes Web hit Reuters 15/12/2014

In Kabul, a young Afghan man bearing a striking resemblance to kung fu legend Bruce Lee is high-kicking his way to Internet fame, aiming to show another side to his war-weary nation. Videos and photos of Abbas Alizada, aged 20, posted on the Facebook page "Bruce Hazara" show him performing back flips and striking Lee's famous poses. "The only news that comes from Afghanistan is about war ... I am happy that my story is a positive one," says the man who is quickly becoming known as the Afghan Bruce Lee.

Ex-British Guantanamo inmate says CIA 'torture' report won't help Reuters 15/12/2014

A former British inmate of Guantanamo Bay says CIA "torture" of terrorism suspects, detailed in a recent U.S. Senate report, has fuelled violence and the rise of Islamic State, and that cataloguing it wouldn't help. Moazzam Begg was held for nearly three years at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where he said psychological tortures included execution threats, light deprivation and solitary confinement. He believes such harsh interrogations have inflamed tensions and made torture, abuse and arbitrary killings "the norm" around the world.

Groups push Obama to clarify U.S. abortion funding for wartime rape IPS 15/12/2014

A number of health, advocacy and faith groups are calling on President Barack Obama to take executive action clarifying that U.S. assistance can be used to fund abortion services for women and girls raped in the context of war and conflict. For over 40 years, the Helms Amendment has been applied as a complete ban on abortion care in U.S.-funded global health programmes – with no exceptions. News calls are being made to amend the law so appropriate post-rape care, including abortion services, legal and social services, and treatment for mental and physical health can be given to those in need.

Only half of global banks have policy to respect human rights IPS 15/12/2014

New research has found that just half of major global banks have a public policy to respect human rights. Findings published by BankTrack identified that of the 32 of the global banks examined, none had publicly put in place a process to deal with human rights abuses, if identified. Against a set of 12 criteria, the average score was only a three. The report also stated that the banks it investigated, “have been found to finance companies and projects involving forced removals of communities, child labour, military backed land grabs, and abuses of indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination.”

The fight to free the El Salvador 17 INSP 15/12/2014

In El Salvador, abortion is viewed as a heinous crime even in cases of rape, incest or when a woman's life is in danger during pregnancy, and the country’s stance on the issue has led to dozens of wrongful imprisonments and many young women committing suicide. On a visit to Glasgow, Scotland, from El Salvador human rights activist Morena Herrera spoke to INSP to raise awareness of the issue. The former guerrilla fighter is campaigning on behalf of 17 women suffering horrendous conditions in El Salvador’s notorious prisons after being wrongfully jailed.

Syrian refugees in Athens and the consequences of ‘Fortress Europe’ Open Democracy 15/12/2014

Thousands of Syrian refugees are trying to travel through Turkey, only to find themselves drowning in the Mediterranean, jailed for months in Greek detention centres, or in a legal limbo due to the country's strict asylum policy that affects even war refugees. Those who are allowed to stay have to deal with growing racism and a lack of humanitarian policies in the country. As a result, out of 46,500 Syrians who have arrived in Greece since 2011, only an estimated 1600 have applied for asylum. Greece can, and should, do a lot more to accommodate refugees, says Greek journalist Matthaios Tsimitakis in an opinion piece for Open Democracy.

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