Ukraine. Russian troops have surrounded ports and cities in the Crimean peninsula. Russian President Vladimir Putin asked the Duma parliament for authority to deploy the military more extensively, claiming that the Russian Federation reserves the right to protect Russian speakers in Ukraine. This follows a Feb. 26 Simferopol protest by Crimean Tatars in support of the resignation of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich, during which they clashed with pro-Moscow protestors. The next day, masked gunmen stormed the regional government headquarters and raised the flag of the Russian Federation atop its spire. The provisional government in Kiev claimed that war and national breakup are unlikely. At least 100 Ukrainian civil and military officers have defected to Russia.
– Al Jazeera English and Russia Today
Saudi Arabia. Feminist activists petitioned the kingdom’s Shura consultative council to end male domination, segregation and subjugation of women in their country. “Laws in the kingdom enforcing restrictions on women are not based on religious teachings,” leading activist Aziza Yousef said. Nine other activists signed the petition full of demands, one of which calls for allowing women to drive. Three female members of the Shura Council presented a recommendation that women be given the right to drive in October, but the male-dominated 150-member assembly blocked the proposal.
– Associated Free Press
Israel. Three-hundred thousand Orthodox Jews staged a mass prayer protest march through the streets of Jerusalem on March 2 against new legislation that would require draft quotas for ultra-Orthodox men to join military or civilian public service. Under the new law, draft exemptions for students at Jewish seminaries would be abolished. Most of the protestors, who blasted prayers and religious music over loudspeakers, were men. Female protestors marched on separate sides of the street in keeping with strict religious gender segregation.
– BBC World Service
Norway. Following the wide success of Walt Disney’s animated hit, “Frozen,” American tourism has increased to Norway. Although the film’s setting of Arendelle is fictional, it is loosely based on Norway, with one character speaking in a distinctly Norwegian accent. According to Norway’s Head of Tourism Per Arne Tuftin, since Frozen’s release last November, traffic on the website for American tourism in Norway, VisitNorway.us, has increased by 350 percent.
– National Public Radio