It started as a viral video. Now, it’s the biggest challenge to Mugabe’s rule in a decade. “Organisers of a general strike against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe pledged on Thursday to continue action until he falls, as a spontaneous social media movement has coalesced into the biggest uprising against his rule in nearly a decade. Zimbabweans have been using the Internet in recent weeks to mobilise for street protests against Mugabe’s government, bypassing traditional opposition parties as anger grows over his administration’s handling of a failing economy. Mugabe, Africa’s oldest leader at 92, has led the former British colony since independence in 1980. (Reuters http://bit.ly/29qjWIn)

A Fertility Rate Anomaly in the Philippines… The Philippines is the only Asia-Pacific country where the rate of teen pregnancies rose over the last two decades and the slow decline of its overall fertility rate may deprive the country of the faster economic growth expected in places that have more working-age people than younger and older dependents…The study supported by UNFPA found that “due to the slow reduction in the fertility rate the country may not be able to benefit fully from the demographic dividend,” or the balance of its population among children, working-age adults (age 15 to 65) and elderly. It said the window of time to reap economic benefits from the favorable demographics was closing fast.The Philippines’ total fertility rate was 3 births per woman as of 2013, falling at a slow pace of 1.6 percent per year from 7 births per woman in 1960. But the poorest quintile of the population has a higher fertility rate of 5.2 births per woman as of 2013. (AP http://yhoo.it/29DdeRc)

Hat in the Ring…Costa Rica nominated former United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres on Thursday to be the next U.N. Secretary-General, making her the 12th candidate to enter the race ahead of the first Security Council secret ballot later this month. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/29qjU3m)

Posted Without Comment…”Madonna’s welcome in Kenya was in contrast to the criticism she faced after visiting Malawi in 2013, when she was accused by Malawi of expecting its government to be forever chained in an “obligation of gratitude” towards her for adopting two Malawian children and contributing to the construction of classrooms there.” (TRF http://tmsnrt.rs/29wPMlT)

Africa

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday denied reports of an attempt on his life in Kenya during his heavily guarded African tour this week in which he seeks allies after decades of relationships strained by the Palestinian issue. (AP http://yhoo.it/29qk2j0)

France sentenced two former Rwandan mayors to life in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity committed in the African country in 1994. (Reuters http://bit.ly/29Sri6b)

For nearly two years, Ebola stormed across this corner of west Africa, devastating communities and health systems that were already among the world’s poorest. But within that public health emergency was a second crisis, acute but nearly invisible: one of mental healthcare. (Guardian http://bit.ly/29qjCJv)

The United Nations’ food agency said on Thursday it needed $730 million over the next 12 months for relief in seven southern African countries hit hard by a blistering drought and faced a $610 million shortfall. (Reuters http://bit.ly/29qkhe2)

South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog said on Thursday it will receive additional funds to investigate whether President Jacob Zuma allowed the wealthy Gupta family to make government appointments. (Reuters http://bit.ly/29wzcT8)

MENA

In a multi-pronged offensive, Syrian government forces and their allies pushed into an area north of the city of Aleppo on Thursday, threatening a key supply line for the city’s opposition-held quarters and setting off intense clashes with rebels, activists said. (AP http://yhoo.it/29wzfyx)

Italian navy officials say they have recovered 217 bodies from the hull of a migrant ship that sank off Libya last year in a tragedy that sparked the EU to beef up Mediterranean rescue operations. (AP http://yhoo.it/29wzfi2)

A growing number of Gazans fed up with their erratic electricity supply are turning to solar power in an area where the sun shines for the vast majority of the year. (AFP http://yhoo.it/29qkzBM)

Two years after Gaza’s last devastating conflict with Israel, rights groups vented frustration Thursday over the slow pace of reconstruction in the Palestinian territory and lack of war crimes prosecutions. (AFP http://yhoo.it/29SrGBm)

Amnesty International and the European Parliament on Thursday urged Bahrain to release a prominent human rights defender and denounced repression against freedom of expression in the tiny Gulf kingdom. (AFP http://yhoo.it/29CRGo6)

Asia

Water levels are starting to recede in central and eastern China Thursday following a week of heavy downpours that broke levees, flooded cities and villages, halted public transportation, and left at least 181 people dead or missing. (AP http://yhoo.it/29qkq1h)

At least 24 people were injured in an explosion last night in a commuter train carriage in Taipei’s Songshan Railway Station, in what is believed to be the worst train blast in Taipei. (Straits Times http://bit.ly/29wRRhL)

The Philippine president warned a Chinese drug suspect that he may die at Manila’s airport if he returns from abroad, in televised remarks Thursday that underscored the brazen rhetoric and methods he intends to use to fight the illegal drug trade. (AP http://yhoo.it/29CRoxg)

An assistant to a prominent Chinese rights lawyer was released on bail Thursday, just ahead of the anniversary of a national crackdown on rights defenders. (AP http://yhoo.it/29wyO7l)

After Thursday’s deadly attack by suspected Islamists near a mosque in Bangladesh where hundreds of thousands had gathered for Eid prayers, the country’s information minister says the government is not ruling out the possibility of a link between home grown militant groups and transnational terror outfits. (VOA http://bit.ly/29qku0I)

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen and his family have built a multi-million-dollar business empire spanning the impoverished country’s most lucrative sectors, a watchdog said Thursday, warning foreign investors against bankrolling his regime. (AFP http://yhoo.it/29qkIoz)

The Americas

The man who led efforts to impeach Brazil’s suspended President Dilma Rousseff has resigned as speaker of the lower house of congress. (AP http://yhoo.it/29SqpdJ)

Several thousand people demonstrated in Rio de Janeiro, calling for a “boycott” of the Olympic Games less than a month ahead of an event plagued by a financial crisis and crime. (AFP http://yhoo.it/29qjKcg)

Police in Rio de Janeiro state, which hosts next month’s Olympics, killed at least 645 people in the last year and 8,000 over the decade, a rights group said Thursday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/29qjFoC)

…and the rest

The British government has pledged £100 million to support programs to get more of the world’s poorest girls into school. (Guardian http://bit.ly/29qjWIc)

Despite the many imponderables transfixing domestic politics, it already seems clear that Brexit will have a mainly detrimental effect on Britain’s international role, certainly in the short term. The UK is likely to have less aid money and less influence, while the success of the leave campaign could also signal a more inward-looking agenda. (Guardian http://bit.ly/29qkNZx)

Serbia’s government on Thursday accused Hungary of enacting harsher border control policies and breaching international law by returning migrants across their shared frontier. (AP http://yhoo.it/29CRtkC)

The United States will provide nearly $23 million in additional humanitarian aid to help people affected by the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the State Department said on Thursday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/29qkkqf)

An Italian man who the authorities say hurled racist abuse at a Nigerian couple and beat the husband when he came to his wife’s defense was charged on Thursday with manslaughter, after the husband died from his injuries. (NYT http://nyti.ms/29wRZxS)

After mass sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, the German Parliament on Thursday voted in favor of a stricter sexual-assault law that also could ease deportation rules for refugees convicted of sex-related offenses. (WaPo http://wapo.st/29wSeJ4)

Opinion/Blogs

If you have 20 minutes and what to understand the reasons why South Sudan’s 5th birthday will not be a celebration, have a listen to this Global Dispaches podcast interview with Oxfam’s humanitarian policy expert. (Global Dispatches http://bit.ly/29wOtDu)

Is a Referendum a Valid Tool for Democracy? (IPS http://bit.ly/29q3jN6)

Will Myanmar’s Rohingya finally become citizens in their own country? (IRIN http://bit.ly/29S8VOF)

We won’t conquer the mountains of the SDGs without humility (Guardian http://bit.ly/29SacVL)

The UN and Global Economic Stagnation (IPS http://bit.ly/29ribfe)

Will Rio Games really be a catastrophe? (CNN http://cnn.it/29riAhE)

How Sudan’s diaspora uses social media to marshal Ramadan meals (Guardian http://bit.ly/29SqP3z)

Millions Of Women Take A Long Walk With A 40-Pound Water Can (Goats and Soda http://n.pr/29quyqI)

What’s next for Japanese aid in UHC push (Devex http://bit.ly/29oqULA)

Discussion

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