This could be the start of something big. “Major world powers have reached an agreement on a nationwide ceasefire in Syria and diplomatic talks aimed at ending the years-long conflict there. The deal announced in Munich in the early morning on Friday, local time, follows marathon talks with Russia and more than a dozen other countries. It calls for a nationwide ceasefire, the swift expansion of humanitarian aid and the resumption of peace talks in Geneva as soon as possible. ‘What we have here is on paper, but what we need to see is actions on the ground,’ U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in announcing the agreement. The agreement also called for the immediate acceleration and expansion of humanitarian aid to besieged parts of the country — like the city of Madaya,whose residents have been starving to death.” (MSNBC http://on.msnbc.com/1o4FEpo)

Suicide Bombings in Nigeria…”Two female suicide bombers between the ages of 17 and 20 blew themselves up this week in a camp in northeastern Nigeria set up to shelter people from terrorism, killing at least 58 people. But others were spared when a third intended bomber realized at the last minute that her family had taken shelter there, too, and refused to detonate her explosives, relief officials said. Officials said 78 people were injured. The victims were staying in a camp for people who had been displaced by Boko Haram violence in Nigeria’s Borno state.” (CNN http://cnn.it/1QYR1ZN

Scores Dead in Mexican Prison Riot… “A brawl between rival drug gangs at an overcrowded penitentiary in northern Mexico turned into a riot Thursday, leaving 52 inmates dead and 12 injured in the country’s deadliest prison melee in years. No escapes were reported in the clash at the Topo Chico prison in Monterrey, said Nuevo Leo state Gov. Jaime Rodriguez. The riot took place on the eve of Pope Francis’ arrival in Mexico, a visit that is scheduled to include a trip next week to another prison in the border city of Ciudad Juarez.” (NYT http://nyti.ms/1QYQkzx)

Stat of the day: In five years of civil war, 400,000 Syrians have been killed and another 70,000 have perished due to a lack of basics such as clean water and healthcare, the Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1SKjO8e)

Africa

Burundi says it feels vindicated now that the United States has accused the Rwandan government of involvement in destabilizing activities in Burundi. (VOA http://bit.ly/1o6Hzua)

A political crisis is growing in Democratic Republic of Congo over the possibility that President Joseph Kabila might seek a third term in office, a senior U.S. official warned. (Reutershttp://bit.ly/1muJ9Ew)

Zimbabwe’s government this week launched a $1.5 billion international appeal for assistance to avert hunger, as some parts of the country are feeling the pinch of severe drought conditions blamed on the El Nino weather phenomenon and resulting food shortages. (VOA http://bit.ly/1PFiIEx)

One week before Uganda’s February 18 presidential and parliamentary elections, main opposition candidate Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change, says he fears voter bribery could be one of the obstacles to his victory. (VOA http://bit.ly/1SKjS7J)

South African police are securing roads around parliament ahead of expected protests against President Jacob Zuma, who will give a state-of-the-nation address amid harsh criticism of his conduct. (AP http://yhoo.it/1muJCGF)

When a plunge in oil prices prompted Angola’s government to slash public spending last year, street trader Antonio Simao Baptista had no idea it would leave his rundown suburb overwhelmed by filth and disease. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1PFiDAw)

From Ebola to Islamist insurgents to social unrest triggered by the global commodity downturn, mining firms operating in West Africa face mounting security challenges, analysts and executives say. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1PFiHAg)

MENA

Saudi’s decision to send troops to Syria in an attempt to bolster and toughen efforts against militants is “final” and “irreversible,” the Saudi military spokesman announced on Thursday. (Al Arabiya http://bit.ly/1QYQyGR )

A Palestinian official warned Wednesday that the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem could “explode” if funds from international donors fell short this year. (VOA http://bit.ly/1SKjqGO)

Plunging oil prices have pitched Iraq into a severe financial crisis as it struggles to combat the Islamic State group, play host to millions of refugees and rebuild cities and towns ravaged by war. (AP http://yhoo.it/1SKjPJa)

A military offensive by Syrian government and allied forces has cut off 120,000 people in the northern Homs governorate since mid-January, worsening hunger and killing patients unable to get to medical care, a U.N. report said on Thursday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1PFi0a6)

The United States is pressing allies on Thursday to contribute more to a U.S.-led military campaign against Islamic State that it says must be accelerated, regardless of the fate of diplomatic efforts to end Syria’s civil war. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Tasgfh)

Merkel announced a $566 million loan to Iraq to help rebuild the country’s infrastructure. (AP http://yhoo.it/1PFiD3y)

Asia

Australia said Thursday it will “carefully consider” if it can help the orphans of an Islamic State fighter and their Sydney-born mother, who both reportedly died in Syria, warning the children could pose a threat later in life. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1muJ3wF)

Indian authorities detained dozens of Kashmiri activists and placed separatist leaders under house arrest Thursday to prevent them from holding anti-India protests to mark the anniversary of a top separatist leader’s hanging more than three decades ago. (AP http://yhoo.it/1SKjQNf)

Water shortages, a bitterly cold winter, the aftermath of a border blockade with India and tardy reconstruction efforts are compounding the desperate plight of people who survived last year’s earthquakes in Nepal. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1PFiDRe)

The Delhi government plans another round of tough measures to restrict the use of private cars and clean up toxic air in the Indian metropolis, the world’s most polluted city. (Reutershttp://yhoo.it/1PFiz3X)

The Americas

Brazilian health authorities believe three adults died last year of suspected complications related to the Zika virus, the Health Ministry said on Thursday. (VOA http://bit.ly/1Qazv7S)

Venezuelan shopping centers are scaling back hours of operation, causing an uproar among consumers, in the wake of the government’s move to reduce their electricity supplies in the early afternoon and evening hours. (VOA http://bit.ly/1Ljf69b)

Two U.S. women who contracted the Zika virus while traveling out of the country miscarried after returning home, and the virus was found in their placentas, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. (WaPo http://wapo.st/1mv3ycD)

…and the rest

Women in more than 50 countries – about a quarter of the world – face sexist nationality and citizenship laws, according to rights group Equality Now. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1PFhZD7)

Polish lawmakers passed a new child benefit scheme Thursday which will give monthly payments of $125 for all second and subsequent children in a family. (AP http://yhoo.it/1o6IE59)

Opinion/Blogs

‘These are our rights’: Ghana’s LGBT community finally finds Solace (Guardian http://bit.ly/1o6HBlQ)

Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika (VOA http://bit.ly/1SKjk1T)

The troubling comfort of aid work in Geneva (WhyDev http://bit.ly/1PFFcVL)

​Modernising African Agriculture to Help the Poor? (TRF http://bit.ly/1muJbwa)

Syria not just a humanitarian crisis, but a development one too (Devex http://bit.ly/1o7hvPN)

What is the Chinese media doing right for LGBT people? (Guardian http://bit.ly/1muJ7MU)

​Where Is Africa’s Al Jazeera? (New Times http://bit.ly/1PFhPfc)

​Back to its roots: how Zika may threaten Africa (Reuters http://bit.ly/1PFiI7h)

Editor’s Take: The UN Secretary General’s vision for humanitarian reform (IRIN http://bit.ly/1PFFjka)

How the presidential campaign looks through the eyes of a foreign journalist (WaPo http://wapo.st/1SKzqs4)

 

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