An accord between the government and northern rebels is close at hand, but some deep challenges remain. “Hundreds of protesters rallied for a second day Wednesday in the northern Malian town of Kidal against a preliminary, U.N.-brokered peace proposal, as Tuareg separatist leaders gathered to discuss the agreement with their supporters, residents said. People in the crowd said the proposal, so far signed only by Mali’s government, answered none of their demands, most importantly autonomy for the northern region they call Azawad. But the government and U.N. mediators say the deal — which proposes more devolved powers for the north, a regional security force and a development plan — is the best hope yet to end decades of Tuareg-led uprisings. (Reuters http://reut.rs/1b2TwKE)

Stat of the Day: $22 billion…UNESCO warns that ambitions to achieve universal education and improve teaching quality in the world’s poorest countries will be jeopardised unless the $22 billion funding required annually is met. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1Gs5SoV)

A Rare, Big Worker Strike in China...About 5,000 workers have gone on strike at a shoe manufacturer in southern China over benefits, two activists and a worker said, marking one of the biggest work-stoppages in the country in months. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Ag4iTs) 

Africa

Nigeria said on Wednesday that 36 towns had been retaken from Boko Haram since the start of a four-nation military offensive, voicing hope that the operation could lead to the group’s “total defeat”. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1D5XzBP)

WFP rations currently are keeping some 120,000 people alive in the wake of the October-through-February drought that destroyed the harvest in Madagascar, where one of every two toddlers under three suffer retarded growth due to inadequate diets. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Ag4mTg)

International Criminal Court judges have agreed to put Ivory Coast’s former president on trial together with a former youth leader on charges of involvement in deadly violence that erupted after 2010 elections. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Mtsx8j)

One of the world’s largest peacekeeping forces is being cut back and revamped as it has been failing to protect civilians in Darfur, the vast Sudanese region where gunmen roam in Land Cruisers and on horseback. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1FbaSA9)

Niger’s police spokesman says that military operations in the country’s east have killed at least 500 of Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamic extremists. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Mtst8J)

The United States and European Union have asked Zimbabwean authorities to investigate the disappearance of a journalist-turned activist who has been staging sit-ins in the capital demanding that President Robert Mugabe resigns. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1MtswRM)

Uganda’s ability to respond to major epidemics will be undermined if plans to send 263 doctors, nurses and midwives to the Caribbean are carried out, civil society activists have warned. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1Gs6v20)

Cameroon’s government is asking the public to donate money, food and clothing to help offset the growing needs of its soldiers and refugees, including those respectively fighting and fleeing the Boko Haram insurgency on its northern border with Nigeria. (VOA http://bit.ly/1AjFIAh)

MENA

A display of photographs depicting torture in Syrian detention centers went on display at UN headquarters in New York. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1b2QplY)

Syrian government forces are responsible for killing nearly 600 doctors and medical workers during the four-year war, Physicians for Human Rights said Wednesday, calling the attacks a crime against humanity. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1D5Xyxu)

The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees accompanied the first aid convoy in three months to enter the besieged Yarmuk camp in the Syrian capital on Tuesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Ag4gLl)

Israeli authorities on Tuesday demolished an EU-funded shelter in Arab east Jerusalem, the European Union said, denouncing the move. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Fbaz8K)

Asia

Myanmar’s opposition National League for Democracy demanded an inquiry on Wednesday into clashes between police protesters in which students, monks and journalists were beaten with batons and more than 100 people were arrested. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1FbaK3F)

Draft legislation aimed at boosting a flagging birth rate threatens to reduce Iranian women to “baby-making machines” and set their rights back by decades, Amnesty International warned on Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1FbaS3e)

A special Indian court on Wednesday summoned former prime minister Manmohan Singh, accusing him of criminal conspiracy and breach of trust for his alleged role in a multibillion dollar scandal over the sale of coal fields. (AP http://yhoo.it/1FbaCRX)

Philippine troops killed at least 23 Muslim rebels in new clashes in the restive south which raised the insurgents’ death toll in a three-week government offensive to nearly 100, the military said Wednesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Ag4wtW)

The wife of an American blogger and critic of religious extremism who was hacked to death in Dhaka last month said police nearby failed to act when the couple were attacked on a university campus in the Bangladesh capital. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Ag4zFX)

The Americas

The U.N. torture investigator accused the United States on Wednesday of stalling on his requests to visit its prisons where 80,000 people are in solitary confinement and to interview inmates at Guantanamo on his terms. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Mtsutf)

Colombia will stop air raids on Marxist FARC rebels for a month, President Juan Manuel Santos said, a major stride in a peace process aimed at ending Latin America’s longest-running civil war. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1FbawK7)

One of Cuba’s most prominent dissidents appears to have fended off a challenge to her leadership of a women’s opposition movement, but with her reputation dented after disgruntled followers accused her of abusing her authority. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1FbaAtg)

A group of Mexican media outlets and civil society groups have launched MexicoLeaks, a digital platform to receive information leaks that could lead to corruption investigations. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Fbav8R)

The Mexican peso has established a historic low against the dollar for a second consecutive day amid expectations of interest rate hikes in the United States. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Fbayl4)

Twenty-five years after Chile’s return to democracy, glorifying Augusto Pinochet has finally become taboo, but the country is still fighting to erase the social and political legacy of his dictatorship. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1FbayRY)

…and the rest

A new report ranks countries according to the disaster risk faced by older people. (VOA http://bit.ly/1b2hdCR)

Ukraine’s Finance Minister Natalia Yaresko said on Wednesday Ukraine expects the first tranche of aid from the International Monetary Fund to amount to $5 billion, news agency Interfax Ukraine reported. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1MtstWb)

Opinion/Blogs

How would we report on the Ferguson report if it happened in another country? (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/1AgrAZm)

The Simone Gbagbo Verdict is Not Justice for Cote D’Ivoire. (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1EYQSAp)

Meet a 2015er: Nicole Cardinal of Save the Children (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1EYiRQS)

“I didn’t come into politics to distribute money to people in the Third World!” (Roving Bandit http://bit.ly/1C73yGy)

2015 is proving to be another deadly year for free speech (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1AjG9KY)

U.S. sanctions may be godsend for struggling Venezuelan leader (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1FbaCBa)

The current economic development model is defunct – we need to ditch it (Guardian http://bit.ly/1Gs6kUn)

As Israeli election nears, peace earns barely a mention (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1FbaUIz)

Debt Balloons Off the Charts in Ghana, Angering Critics (Inter Press Service http://bit.ly/1AjG21U)

‘Homophobia is not rooted in Uganda but influenced by extreme western churches’ (Guardian http://bit.ly/1B43JLQ)

The global women’s rights movement: what others can learn, a progress stocktake and some great videos for IWD (From Poverty to Power http://bit.ly/1FbMgr3)

Nudging the World Bank (and the sector) farther along (Finding What Works http://bit.ly/1FbMj6i)

Discussion

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