A campus protest has ignited a fierce debate in the world’s largest democracy. “By Wednesday, two more students had been arrested on sedition charges, and a debate over free speech raged in Parliament, with a Congress party lawmaker accusing the government of ‘trying to stifle the voice of the youth.’ The arrests have taken the tensions to a new level, with the B.J.P. calling the students ‘anti-national’ and following up with a countrywide campaign against people viewed as unpatriotic. Underlying the political issue is a historic ambivalence about freedom of speech in the world’s largest democracy. While free speech is enshrined in the Constitution, it has been undermined by various sections of the penal code, the courts and successive governments, and is not always supported by the public.” (NYT http://nyti.ms/1RoqrcP)

A Troubled Airdrop...Only a few hours after UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien told the UN Security Council that a 21-ton World Food Programme airdrop had successfully been made to the besieged Syrian city of Deir Ezzor, the WFP said something had gone wrong and activists claimed the supplies had fallen into the wrong hands.” (IRIN http://bit.ly/1Rop25X)

State of the Day: From Amnesty International’s annual report: “more than 122 states tortured or otherwise ill-treated people and 30 or more illegally forced refugees to return to countries where they would be in danger. In at least 19 countries, war crimes or other violations of the “laws of war” were committed by governments or armed groups.” (Amnesty http://bit.ly/1Ror1qU)

About the new definition of foreign aid…The decision to redefine overseas aid to include some military spending in fragile countries will hinder international efforts to help the poorest nations and could even undermine their stability, the UN’s development chief has warned. (Guardian http://bit.ly/21fYM5N)

An a happy golden anniversary to…UNDP, which turned 50. (UN News Center http://bit.ly/1RopMIf)

Africa

South Africa will withdraw its troops from peacekeeping operations in Sudan’s Darfur region, President Jacob Zuma’s office said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1OuHx48)

Uganda’s main opposition presidential candidate, Dr. Kizza Besigye said he has asked his lawyers to challenge in a court of law what he called his continued “illegal” detention by the police. (VOA http://bit.ly/1QcD8oq)

Opposing groups in the South Sudan peace process have agreed on an arrangement to allow 1,370 opposition forces into the capital, Juba, in preparation for rebel leader Riek Machar to join a transitional government. (VOA http://bit.ly/21qKVpT)

Zimbabwe’s vice president, who once faced the death penalty, says the country will consider scrapping capital punishment. (AP http://yhoo.it/1p4eM9Q)

South Africa’s finance minister hiked taxes and targeted what he called wasteful and corrupt government spending on Wednesday in a “crisis” budget aimed at staving off a ratings downgrade to junk status. (AFP http://yhoo.it/21qLzDP)

As obesity rates in South Africa increase, the Action centre aims to raise awareness of this overlooked health issue and help battle the bulge. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1QcJ1C9)

MENA

A Bahraini court sentenced a secular political figure on Wednesday to a year in prison over a speech he made in 2015 calling for change in the tiny island kingdom. (AP http://yhoo.it/21qKUSS)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad assured Russia’s Vladimir Putin of his readiness to respect a ceasefire agreement as the Kremlin strongman on Wednesday launched a diplomatic offensive to get the deal off the ground. (AFP http://yhoo.it/21qL5O9)

International groups track numbers of migrants who drown crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. Last year an estimated 3,800 people died that way. But no one counts the dead of the Sahara. This makes it easier for politicians to ignore the lives lost there, humanitarian workers say. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/21qM5lg)

A Swedish teenager rescued from Islamic State militants in Iraq has said life in the so-called caliphate was “really hard” and that she was duped into going there by her boyfriend. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1QcDbRh)

Saudi inflation soared to a five-year high in January after the kingdom made unprecedented cuts to public subsidies and raised fuel prices, a research report said Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/21qMdBc)

A Palestinian attempted to stab an Israeli in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday and Israeli forces opened fire, fatally wounding the intended victim and injuring the attacker. (AFP http://yhoo.it/21qLLCZ)

Syrian rebel commanders acknowledge they are in an existential, make-or-break moment of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. The five-year civil war has seen plenty of tortuous battlefield ups and downs. (VOA http://bit.ly/21qLEaK)

Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency abuses Palestinians under interrogation in a manner so systematic it points to official endorsement, two Israeli NGOs said in a report published Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1p4epfz)

Asia

The Fijian government and international aid agencies began delivering much needed aid on Wednesday to the Pacific nation’s remote islands and coastal villages devastated by a powerful cyclone that killed 42 people. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/21qLyQq)

Amnesty International has joined a growing chorus accusing India of supporting a climate of intolerance by cracking down on dissent through arbitrary arrests, caste-based discrimination, extrajudicial killings and attacks on freedom of expression. (AP http://yhoo.it/21fY1tu)

Two Indian university students were arrested Wednesday and face sedition charges following protests in New Delhi where anti-India slogans were allegedly shouted, police said. (AP http://yhoo.it/21fY2gW)

Rescuers found the wreckage of a small plane carrying 23 people that crashed in bad weather Wednesday into a mountain in central Nepal, police said. All those aboard, including two foreigners, were confirmed dead. (AP http://yhoo.it/1p4dRX2)

The Philippines is still seeking to recover about $1 billion worth of assets accumulated by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos through 100 court cases at home and overseas, a government official said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1p4hdt1)

Afghan officials took delivery of 10,000 automatic rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition as a gift from Russia on Wednesday, another sign of deepening involvement by Moscow in the war-torn country. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1p4eMGM)

The Philippines expects to finalize a new set of rules on genetically modified organisms over the next few days, after a top court demanded an overhaul of previous regulations in the nation that has been seen as a trailblazer for GMO in Asia. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1QcD5Ju)

A significant minority of South Koreans oppose Washington and Seoul led efforts to impose harsh economic sanctions on the Kim Jong Un government. These critics say this confrontational approach has fueled regional tensions and they warn that further punitive measures will only worsen the poverty stricken conditions in the North and greatly increase the risk of war. (VOA http://bit.ly/21qKXOz)

The Americas

Three pregnant women in Florida contracted the Zika virus while traveling outside of the state, health officials reported Wednesday, as the total number of confirmed cases statewide rose to 32 people. (Miami Herald http://hrld.us/1RopaCD

Evo Morales’ attempt at third termism has come up short.  (PRI http://bit.ly/1Roq1D3)

Teams of U.S. and Brazilian health workers ventured into dicey slums, fought through snarled traffic and braved torrential downpours on the first day of their effort to determine if the Zika virus is causing babies to be born with a birth defect affecting the brain. (AP http://yhoo.it/1QcD5cs)

The head of the World Health Organization expressed confidence that Brazil can host the Rio Olympics safely despite the Zika threat, while warning of a long battle against the mosquito-borne virus. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1QE5BsW)

Brazilian authorities have charged the president of mining company Samarco and six others with homicide for the mining disaster that killed 19 people last November. (BBC http://bbc.in/1p4eBvf)

Republican lawmakers introduced legislation on Tuesday to counter President Barack Obama’s bid to close the Guantanamo detention center, underscoring the difficulty he faces keeping a promise to close it before leaving office next year. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1OuHUM2)

…and the rest

Balkan countries along the well-trodden migrant path towards northern Europe met Wednesday to explore ways to stem the flow despite growing fears that tighter controls will spark a humanitarian crisis, particularly in Greece. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1QE5BZW)

The clock is ticking for hundreds of migrants in the northern French port city of Calais waiting for a judge to decide whether to postpone an eviction order. (AP http://yhoo.it/21qLOPe)

Hungary will hold a referendum on whether to accept mandatory EU quotas for migrants, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Wednesday, protesting that Brussels has no right to “redraw Europe’s cultural and religious identity.” (AFP http://yhoo.it/1p4eIH4)

Opinion/Blogs

This tiny ring can stop HIV in its tracks. (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1RonXLq)

The real world on reel: 20 Oscar-worthy movies about development (Devex http://bit.ly/1QcQSzw)

Africa’s Big Men can deliver but they must know when to go (Guardian http://bit.ly/1QcGo3l)

Can A Bath Of Milk And Honey Replace Female Genital Mutilation? (Goats and Soda http://n.pr/1QcQQHY)

Doing Problem Driven Work, great new guide for governance reformers and activists (From Poverty to Power http://bit.ly/21gbt0w)

We’re letting oil, gas and minerals firms off far too lightly on tax (Guardian http://bit.ly/21qKY5a)

Is Myanmar’s peace accord a sham? (IRIN http://bit.ly/21gbr8K)

Dying from a treatable disease: HIV and the men we neglect (The Conversation http://bit.ly/1QcRqFQ)

3 ways Zuckerberg can change the world again (Devex http://bit.ly/21gbsts)

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