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A Comedian Who Plays President of Ukraine on TV Might Actually Become President

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  • Polls from Monday’s election in Ukraine show comedian Volodymyr Zelensky in a massive lead with over 30 percent of the vote.
  • Zelensky has no political experience and is best known for playing a teacher who accidentally becomes president after going viral for ranting about government corruption in a popular TV show.
  • Zelensky, who ran primarily on an anti-corruption platform, will now have a runoff election against incumbent President Petro Poroshenko on April 21.

Election in Ukraine

Ukrainian comedian Volodymyr Zelensky is the front-runner to become the next president of Ukraine, according to polls from the country’s presidential election on Monday.

Zelensky, who is most famous for starring in a TV show where he plays a teacher who unintentionally becomes the president of Ukraine, has run an extremely popular presidential campaign in real life.

The election on Monday is the first of two parts of the presidential election, sort of like a primary. During the first election, Ukrainians vote for the top two candidates in a field of many. This year, Ukraine saw a record number of 39 contenders running for president.

With 92 percent of all votes counted, election officials announced that Zelensky leads the polls with 30 percent of the vote, while incumbent President Petro Poroshenko is far behind, with only about 16 percent of the vote.

The third-place candidate is former two-term Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, who is widely considered one of the most influential women in Ukraine, and currently holds about 13 percent of the vote.

While the polling is still not entirely finished, it seems almost certain Zelensky and Poroshenko will go head-to-head in the final runoff election three weeks from now, on April 21.

Zelensky’s Rise to Power

With Zelensky polling nearly twice as high as Poroshenko, many are wondering: who is Volodymyr Zelensky?

Zelensky is the star of a Ukranian TV show which translates to “Servant of the People.” In the show, he plays a schoolteacher who becomes president after a video of him ranting about corruption goes viral.

The similarities between his character on the show and his actual campaign are striking.

Both Zelensky and his character have absolutely no political experience, and both are extremely popular because they ran on anti-corruption campaigns.

Zelensky and his character are also both viewed as fresh new leaders who do not have ties to Ukraine’s political elite, and are popular with the younger population.

Zelensky is even part of a new political party that was created by the show’s producers and is literally named the Servant of the People Party.

However, Zelensky’s campaign has not been without controversy. In addition to criticisms that he has no political experience, some have claimed that he is just the surrogate for a wealthy oligarch named Ihor Kolomoisky.

Kolomoisky is a well-known rival of Poroshenko, who moved to Israel after he was involved in a multi-billion dollar banking scandal. Kolomoisky and Zelensky have been business partners, as Servant of the People is aired on Kolomoisky’s TV channel.

Zelensky even announced his candidacy on Kolomoisky’s TV channel.

Unsurprisingly, both men have denied any connections to Zelensky’s campaign.

Ukraine’s Political Turmoil

Poroshenko was first elected back in 2014, after Ukraine’s former Moscow-backed president was ousted as a result of the 2014 Ukranian Revolution, which also overthrew the Ukranian government.

The 2014 Ukrainian Revolution was followed by Russia’s infamous annexation of Crimea, which was part of Ukraine.

Many world leaders criticized Russia for annexing Crimea, saying it violated both international law and a series of agreements between Russia and Ukraine that protected land belonging to Ukraine.

As a result, Poroshenko campaigned and was elected on the promises of getting back control of Crimea, as well as fighting an uprising of Russian-backed separatists that took control over parts of Eastern Ukraine.

Poroshenko has billed himself as a strong defender of Ukraine’s territory and a champion of Ukraine joining the EU and NATO, a move that is widely supported by Ukrainians.

However, he is currently failing with his people for two main reasons.

First, many Ukranian’s believe Poroshenko has not done enough to stop the pro-Russain separatists. Since 2014, Ukrainian government forces have fought a brutal war against the separatists which has killed more than 13,000 people in Eastern Ukraine and has reflected poorly on Poroshenko.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Second, and perhaps most significantly, Poroshenko has failed to crack down on government corruption, such as recovering money that had been stolen from the government before he came to power.

In addition to not cracking down on corruption, Poroshenko has also been accused of being complicit in it. Poroshenko himself is a wealthy oligarch, which has lead many to question his connections to other oligarchs.

His campaign also suffered significantly from a military corruption scandal involving some of his top associates.

What Next?

Much of Zelensky’s support comes from a general frustration with Poroshenko’s lack of efforts to crack down on corruption, as well as the deteriorating economic conditions which have made living standards even lower in Ukraine

Many believe that Zelensky will be a pro-Ukraine president who can offer new approaches to confront Russia and to address the war with the separatists in the East. He has also billed himself as a pro-market candidate who will work to join the EU and NATO.

While Zelinsky seems to be very popular and has received 30 percent of the vote so far, he will still need to reach over 50 percent in order to win the election.

According to polls held by the three main Ukrainian sociological institutes: “37-42 percent of Ukrainians are planning to vote for Zelenskiy in the second round while between 17-19 percent of respondents will vote for Poroshenko. 20 percent said they’ll yet to decide while 21-24 percent said they won’t vote.”

In general, Ukraine’s voting system is much more democratic than Russia’s. Despite the fact that it has troubles, Ukraines citizens are offered a real choice.

Though it is important to note that several million eligible voters were unable or unwilling to cast ballots in Crimea and in the areas of Eastern Ukraine that are controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

It will be interesting to see what the next few weeks will bring, as the Ukraine gears up for its April 21 election.

See what others are saying: (Al Jazeera) (Fox News) (Kyiv Post)

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English Soccer Players Boycott Social Media for 24 Hours

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  • English soccer players are boycotting social media until 9:00 a.m. local time Saturday.
  • The purpose of the boycott is to take a stand against the racism that players are experiencing during games and online.
  • Teams like Manchester United have expressed support, as well as FIFA and retired player David Beckham.

Soccer Players Log Off Social Media

Professional soccer players in England are taking a stand against racism by boycotting social media for 24 hours.

The boycott began at 9:00 a.m. on Friday and will end on Saturday at 9:00 a.m local time. This boycott is part of a campaign by the Professional Footballer’s Association. The organization is using #Enough in response to recent incidents of racism both on and off the field.

“The boycott is the first step in a longer campaign to tackle racism in football,” the PFA said in a statement on their site. “The PFA will continue to work closely with The FA and government to ensure more is done to tackle racist abuse, while also seeking to put pressure on both FIFA and UEFA through FIFPro.”

Right before going offline, several players, as well as PFA, posted this image on Twitter and Instagram announcing why they would be taking a brief break from the sites. Many reported the caption, “We recognise that our platforms come with responsibility, and so we are using our voice to stand against racist abuse. Together, we are calling on social media platforms and footballing bodies to do more!”

Racism in Soccer

In the past couple of months, players have reported hearing people make racist remarks from the stands and online. Some of the comments include spectators making monkey noises, and being told to “go back” to their country.”

“My teammates and I have been on the receiving end of well documented abuse from a minority of narrow-minded, ignorant people both on social media and on the pitch,” said Troy Deeny, a captain for Watford, who is participating in the boycott. “Any racism in football is too much, and it’s essential that we fight it wherever and whenever we see it.”

Other players participating include Gini Wijnaldum, Jesse Lingard, Hector Bellerin, Lucas Perez, Marcus Rashford, and Alexander Iwobi.

Support for the Movement

FIFA has announced that they are supporting the movement. The organization, which has come under fire itself for not doing enough to combat racism in soccer, gave a statement applauding the players participating.

“We support the initiative of the PFA,” the statement read. “FIFA is fully engaged in combating racism and any form of discrimination not only in football but society in general.”

The organization also said that it is preparing its own campaign against discrimination.

Manchester United is also trying to take strides in fighting discrimination in the sport. While the team’s account is not participating in the boycott, it has retweeted the accounts of its players who are.

The team also posted this video where male and female players outlined instances of discrimination. They are using the phrase #AllRedAllEqual to spread awareness.

“Football is going through a time where we’re still seeing discrimination throughout our game,” the players in the video say. “There’s just no place for that. It’s ignorant.”

David Beckham also posted his support for the boycott. The former soccer superstar shared the “Enough” photo on his Instagram and posted it to his story as well.

See what others are saying: (ESPN) (BBC Sport) (TIME)

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Teen Burned Alive After Accusing Principal of Sexual Harassment

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  • An 18-year-old-girl in Bangladesh accused her principal of sexual harassment.
  • An Officer filmed her accusation without her consent and leaked the video online.
  • After refusing to take back her allegations, supporter’s of the principal murdered her by setting her on fire on campus.
  • Organizations are demanding justice, and for sexual assault laws in the country to change.

Nusrat’s Murder

Several organizations are demanding justice after an 18-year-old victim of sexual harassment was burned alive.

Nusrat Jahan Rafi studied at an Islamic school, called a madrasa, in Feni, Bangladesh. She met with the principal of the madrasa, Siraj Ud Duala, on March 27. Nusrat claimed that he repeatedly touched her inappropriately until she finally was able to leave the room. She reported the incident to police that same day.

The officer she reported the harassment to had recorded a video of her allegations without her consent and posted it online. In the recording, she is crying and tells Officer Moazzem Hossain that this is not the first time Siraj had made unwanted and inappropriate advances on her. According to translations by the Dhaka Tribune, Moazzem tells her these accusations are “nothing major.”

On April 6, Siraj’s supporters attacked Nusrat, and were allegedly encouraged to do so by Siraj. Four unidentified individuals took her to the roof of one of the madrasa’s administrative buildings and set her on fire after she refused to take back her allegations.

About 80 percent of her body was covered in severe burns. After spending four days in Dhaka Medical College Hospital, Nusrat died. According to the BBC, police have arrested 15 people, including Siraj, people potentially related to her murder, and people involved in protests on-campus in support of Siraj. Officer Moazzem has been transferred. There are also reports that he is being sued under the Digital Security Act for posting a video of Nusrat without her consent.

The Fight for Justice

Several organizations are fighting for justice. The Human Rights Campaign has called for a full investigation to be made into Nusrat’s murder. In a statement, they said this crime should “spur the authorities to take concerted action to combat sexual violence in the country.”

Transparency International Bangladesh also released a statement, asking that Officer Moazzem specifically be investigated by the Department of Justice for not doing enough about the case.

“We are scared of the allegation raised over inaction of the respective police officer and his connivance in the incident centering the brutal killing,” the statement read.

Thousands of people attended Nusrat’s funeral, and protests are being held all over the country demanding justice, and for laws regarding sexual assault in the country to change.

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, has responded to Nusrat’s murder.

“None of the culprits will be spared from legal action,” she said during a meeting with Nusrat’s family.

Sexual Assault Cases in Bangaldesh

Bangladesh does not have a strong history of punishing sexual abusers. A human rights organization in the country said there were 732 reported cases of rape in 2018, though they say the number is likely much higher, as a culture of blame encourages women to not report. Of those cases, just over 500 had cases filed.

In Bangladesh, there is also a clause in the Evidence Act of 1872 that states: “When a man is prosecuted for rape or an attempt to ravish, it may be shown that the prosecutrix was of generally immoral character.” This allows the defense to use the reputation of the victim against them, and potentially defame them to clear the defendant of charges.

See What Others Are Saying: (Dhaka Tribune) (Daily Star) (BBC)

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North Korea Tests Weapons, Wants Pompeo Out of Nuclear Talks

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  • North Korea conducted its first weapons test since Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump met in February.
  • It is unclear what kind of weapon was tested, but it is not believed to have been nuclear.
  • A Director General in North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also announced that the country no longer wants to negotiate with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
  • In a statement, the Director General said they wished to work with someone “more mature.”

North Korea Conducts Weapons Test

North Korean state media announced Thursday that the country tested a new weapon, and no longer wants to conduct nuclear talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The Korean Central News Agency announced that Kim Jong Un “supervised and guided a test-fire of a new-type tactical guided weapon conducted by the Academy of Defence Science on Wednesday.” This is the first known test the country has conducted since President Donald Trump met with Kim in February. The two did not reach any deals on nuclear negotiations.

While KCNA did not specifically say the type of weapon that was tested, the New York Times reports that there are no signs it was a nuclear weapon or an intercontinental ballistic missile.

According to their statement, Kim thought the test was “great work.”

“Our scientists, technicians and workers are, indeed, great,” KCNA added. “And there is no weapon impossible to make when they are determined to do.”

The White House reported to multiple news outlets that they are aware of the test, but gave no additional comments.

Pompeo Cut Off From Negotiations

After publishing the news of their test, KCNA also announced that, going forward, they do not want to discuss nuclear negotiations with Pompeo. The news came from a statement from North Korea’s Director General of the Department of American Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kwon Jong Gun.

In his statement, Kwon said that Pompeo made “reckless remarks,” talked “nonsense,” showed his “mean character” and accused him of “fabricating stories.”

“We cannot be aware of Pompeo’s ulterior motive behind his self-indulgence in reckless remarks,” Kwon said. “Whether he is indeed unable to understand words properly or just pretending on purpose.”

At the end of his statement, Kwon concluded that he wants to work with not with Pompeo, but with someone “who is more careful and mature in communicating with us.”

North Korea’s decision on Pompeo follows comments the Secretary of State made during testimony to a Senate subcommittee. When asked if he would consider Kim a “tyrant,” Pompeo responded, “I’m sure I’ve said that.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (BBC) (Fox News)

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