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North Korea sentences Canadian pastor to life in prison

Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim (C) enters North Korea's top court in Pyongyang on Dec. 16, 2015. The court sentenced him to life in prison with hard labor for what it claimed to be anti-state acts. (Credit: AP Images/Kyodo)Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim, a native of South Korea, has been sentenced to life in prison by North Korea's highest court after it found him guilty of "crimes against the state." Pastor Lim traveled to Pyongyang in January as part of a group that had gone to support a nursing home, nursery, and an orphanage in the North Korean capital. However, he was arrested in February and in July was brought to a press conference where he stated that his humanitarian work had been a "guise" for "subversive plots and activities in a sinister bid to build a religious state."

Pastor Lim leads the Toronto based Light Korean Presbyterian Church and has traveled to North Korea on humanitarian aid missions for the better part of twenty years. It is unclear what, if anything, was different about this trip. The North Korean government has made a habit of detaining foreigners in recent years, especially those linked to religious activity, and confessions similar to pastor Lim's were made in previous cases. However, most doubt their sincerity or legitimacy given that many of those that confessed have later stated that they were coerced into doing so.

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ISIS murders 38 kids with Down Syndrome

Islamic State group militants posing in Yarmouk Palestinian camp, located in a suburb of Damascus, Syria, that is partially now under their control, April 7, 2015 (Credit: AP/SIPA USA/Balkis Press)Mahatma Gandhi once remarked, "The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members." To be vulnerable is to be need of something heartier than words and more robust than sympathy. If actions speak louder than words, recent events in Iraq indicate a dismal measure of a society governed by ISIS.

Over the weekend, the Mosul Eye reported that judges ruled that ISIS followers are now authorized to "kill newborn babies with Down's Syndrome or congenital deformities." In this Sharia court, a Saudi sharia judge named Abu Said Aljazrawi issued this Oral Fatwa, which is a legal ruling by an expert in religious law (mufti). Thus far, it has been reported that more than thirty-eight children with deformities, between the ages of one week and three months, have already been killed by lethal injection or suffocation.

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The outcasts that helped to save a nation

Health workers prepare to collect the ashes of people that died due to the Ebola virus at a crematorium on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, March 7, 2015 (Credit: AP Photo/ Abbas Dulleh)In a fascinating article for the New York Times, Helene Cooper describes the plight of thirty young men in Liberia that helped to stem the tide of Ebola that ravaged their nation last year. Prior to the outbreak, they were just like the rest of their people. However, as the disease continued to spread, the country's leadership took the advice of global health experts and made the difficult decision to hire these men to start burning the bodies of the deceased.

It is perhaps difficult for us to understand the gravity of such a choice. You see, in Liberia, the dead are treated with a degree of reverence that far surpasses that of most in western culture. There is a national holiday, Decoration Day, which exists for the sole purpose of granting people the necessary time to clean the graves of their loved ones. Marble tombstones and mahogany coffins are common even among the poor and funeral services can last for days. As Cooper describes, "Many Liberians believe that if the dead are not properly buried, they will come back to haunt the living…A dead body for many Liberians is, in a sense, still a living thing, to be nurtured, looked after and lovingly sent onward."

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'Holy Grail' of shipwrecks found off Colombian coast

Ernesto Montenegro, Director of the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History of Colombia, talks to the media while he shows a picture of remains of the Galleon San Jose, a Spanish boat eighteenth century empire that sank in the Caribbean Sea loaded with gold, during a press conference in Cartagena, Colombia, December 5, 2015 (Credit: AP Photo/ Pedro Mendoza)On Saturday, Colombian President Juan Manual Santos held a press conference to announce that a team of experts had found the San Jose, a long-lost galleon that sunk south of Cartagena. The ship was the primary transport of gold, silver, and jewels from Spain's South American colonies at the turn of the eighteenth century and is worth an estimated three billion dollars today, with some experts placing the value even higher.

An explosion sank the "holy grail of shipwrecks," as it has often been called, while it was attempting to outrun a fleet of British warships. The San Jose was sailing for Spain at the time of the attack in an effort to bring its contents back to King Philip V in order to help finance his war against the British. There were an estimated 600 people onboard at the time as well as roughly 11 million gold and silver coins and a number of precious jewels.

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Change the whole world can agree on?

President Barack Obama, left, sits with French President Francois Hollande, right, as they have dinner at the Ambroisie restaurant in Paris, France, with Secretary of State John Kerry, 2nd right, French Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Segolene Royal, 3rd right, and French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, 3rd left, during a two-day visit to France as part of the COP21, United Nations Climate Change, conference, November 30, 2015 (Credit: AP Photo/Thibault Camus)Leaders from 150 nations joined some 40,000 delegates in Paris on Monday morning for the 2015 World Climate Summit. As U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters with regards to the conference and its goals, "A political moment like this may not come again. We have never faced such a test. But neither have we encountered such great opportunity." The Summit's leaders hope to formulate regulations that will institute legally binding reductions in greenhouse gas emissions for nations around the world.

A similar agreement was passed in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997. It mandated that industrialized nations reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to five percent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. However, a number of key nations, including the United States which is the second largest producer of greenhouse emissions, chose not to abide by it. To complicate matters, China and India, the first and third largest emitters respectively among nations, were exempt at the time. That is why the current summit is focused on passing binding legislation that cannot be so easily disregarded by those countries that can do the most to address the problem.

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