Six In The Morning Monday January 11

Nearly 400,000 Syrians starving in besieged areas

Deaths from malnutrition reported as three towns wait desperately for promised food aid to arrive from Damascus.

Patrick Strickland | | Humanitarian crises, War & Conflict, Middle East, Syria

As aid agencies prepare to deliver food to Madaya, on the outskirts of Damascus and two other besieged towns in Idlib province, an estimated 400,000 people are living under siege in 15 areas across Syria, according to the UN.

A deal struck on Saturday permits the delivery of food to Madaya, currently surrounded by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and the villages of Foua and Kefraya in Idlib, both of which are hemmed in by rebel fighters.

Due to a siege imposed by the Syrian government and the Lebanese Hezbollah group, an estimated 42,000 people in Madaya have little to no access to food, resulting in the deaths of at least 23 people by starvation so far, according to the charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

Reports of widespread malnutrition have emerged, some of them suggesting that Madaya residents are resorting to eating grass and insects for survival.

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un tells scientists to build better nuclear weapons

Leader reported to have implored his military to develop more bombs as a means of ‘self defence’

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un looked to milk his country’s recent nuclear test as a propaganda victory on Monday, praising his scientists and vowing more nuclear bombs a day after the US flew a powerful nuclear-capable warplane close to the North in a show of force.

A standoff between the rival Koreas has deepened since last week’s test, the North’s fourth. Seoul on Monday continued anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts across the border and announced that it would further limit the entry of South Koreans to a jointly run factory park in North Korea.

Outside North Korea, Kim faces widespread condemnation and threats of heavy sanctions over the North’s disputed claim of a hydrogen bomb test.

The death of Mexican news in the age of drug cartels

Readers are unaware of the life-and-death decisions editors make every day not to anger different local cartels

As deadline descended on El Mañana’s newsroom and reporters rushed to file their stories, someone in the employ of a local drug cartel called with a demand from his crime boss.

The caller was a journalist for another newspaper, known here as an enlace, or “link” to the cartel. The compromised journalist barked out the order: Publish an article saying the mayor in Matamoros had not paid the cartel $2 million a month in protection fees, as an El Mañana front-page story had alleged the day before.

“They want us to say he’s not guilty,” the editor who took the call told his colleagues during the episode in late October. Knowing glances passed between them as a visiting Washington Post reporter looked on.

Enact separate law for child rape, SC tells lawmakers

Noting that rape and sexual offences against infants and girl children below 10 years of age is nothing but “brutal perversion”, the Supreme Court on Monday asked Parliament to enact a separate offence of ‘child rape’ and provide rigorous punishment to offenders.

This is the first time that the apex court has distinguished between minors and children below 10 years of age. The Bench, led by Justice Dipak Misra, said Parliament has to separately define the word ‘child’ in terms of rape.

“The pain and distress caused to a child, including infants as young as 28 days old, who knows nothing about sex and rape is nothing but brutal perversion. When a society moves this way, it has to be stopped,” Justice Misra dictated in a written order.

Israeli rights group hit in suspected arson attack

 B’Tselem’s offices extensively damaged amid government push to restrict work of human rights groups.

| Human Rights, War & Conflict, Middle East, Israel, Palestine

The offices of a prominent Israeli human rights group have been damaged in a blaze that local authorities are investigating as a potential arson attack.

B’Tselem, which documents Israel’s human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories, said in a statement that “the fire brigade reported the damage to our office is extensive” after the incident on Sunday.

Firefighters evacuated the building and extinguished the flames, while a handful of Israelis gathered near the site to celebrate, according to the local 972 Magazine blog. No casualties were reported.

The fire comes at a time when Israel’s right-wing government is advancing a new bill sculpted to label human rights groups as “foreign entities”, while a pro-settler group has launched a campaign to paint rights groups as “foreign agents”.

‘I went to join Isis in Syria, taking my four-year-old. It was a journey into hell’

Sophie Kasiki is one of the few women to escape from Raqqa, the stronghold of Islamic State

in Paris

Sophie Kasiki stared at the photograph of a young English-speaking boy in a camouflage uniform and black bandana covered in Arabic calling for unbelievers to be killed in the latest Islamic State propaganda.

Her eyes welled and she swallowed hard. “That could have been my son,” she said, her firm voice wavering. “That’s hard for me to say and makes me want to cry. I would have killed us both rather than let him become a killer, rather than let him fall into the claws of those monsters.”

The “monsters” she is referring to are Islamic State, and Kasiki weighs her words; she knows her four-year-old son was only ever at risk of falling into the jihadis’ lair because she had taken him there.