World news briefs / 12/21/13

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Uganda passes anti-gay law

LONDON -- The Ugandan Parliament announced Friday that it had approved legislation imposing harsh penalties on gay people, including life imprisonment for what it called "aggravated homosexuality," effectively brushing aside previous objections to anti-gay legislation from outside powers, including President Barack Obama.

In addition to prohibiting "any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex," the law seemed to echo Russia's so-called gay propaganda law, criminalizing "the promotion or recognition" of homosexual relations "through or with the support of any government entity in Uganda or any other nongovernmental organization inside or outside the country."

Specifically, the law -- officially titled the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 -- provides for a 14-year jail term for a first conviction and "imprisonment for life for the offense of aggravated homosexuality," a Parliament announcement said.

S. Sudan oil fields seized

JUBA, South Sudan -- Armed rebels were said to be in control of some of South Sudan's oil fields Friday, raising questions of how long the country's oil will flow and whether Sudan could enter the conflict which showed no signs of ending.

President Salva Kiir implored his country to turn away from ethnic violence and met Friday with foreign ministers from neighboring states, including Kenya and Ethiopia, who flew into Juba, the capital, to help calm tensions after a week of ethnic strife that is estimated to have killed hundreds.

ANC loses key ally

JOHANNESBURG -- South Africa's largest trade union withdrew its support for the African National Congress on Friday, a move that is likely to erode the party's dominance ahead of national elections next year.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, which calls itself "the biggest union in the history of the African continent," with 338,000 members, announced Friday after a special congress that it would seek to start a socialist party aimed at protecting the interests of the working class. It was a direct rebuke to the ANC, which since its days as an underground movement resisting apartheid rule has portrayed itself as the champion of South Africa's downtrodden.

Russian dissident freed

MOSCOW -- After 10 years in jail, Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, the former chairman of Yukos Oil and once Russia's richest man, walked free from a prison colony in northern Russia on Friday and flew to Berlin on a private jet, the German Foreign Ministry confirmed.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia signed a decree pardoning the former oil tycoon on Friday, citing "humanitarian principles" and bringing Mr. Khodorkovsky's criminal odyssey to an abrupt and unexpected end.

Sexism or quirky tradition

LONDON -- Britain's best-selling Sun newspaper has called the topless women that are famously featured on its Page 3 a "British institution".

But for a new wave of feminists who are as tenacious as they are Twitter savvy, the Sun's daily dose of bare breasts is not a quirky tradition worth celebrating, but a poignant example of modern-day sexism that urgently needs covering up.

The plainly named "No More Page 3" campaign has emerged as one of the highest-profile of the many feminist activist groups that have recently sprouted up in Britain, fueled by social media and online tools.

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