Iconic and mysterious Easter Island statues are all that remain of the clans… (James P. Blair / Associated…)
The U.S. Department of State issued a warning on Dec. 17 recommending that U.S. citizens not travel to the Republic of South Sudan because of "ongoing political and social unrest." More info at (888) 407-4747 toll-free in the United States or, outside the country, (202) 501-4444.
The State Department also has urged Americans to avoid travel to Libya "because of ongoing instability and violence." Libya reopened for U.S. visitors in February 2004, but periodic upheavals have put it and its Roman ruins off-limits for Americans.
Writing in the December Journal of Archaeological Science, anthropologist Mara Mulrooney of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu offers a new picture of what happened on Easter Island, or Rapa Nui: It didn't collapse because of deforestation, as has been thought, but may have been a victim of diseases introduced by European visitors, leading to societal collapse.
Does the release of Mikhail Khodorkovsky after a decade in prison and two band members of the rock band/activists Pussy Riot signal a softening of Russia's heart? Not likely, according to media reports. More probably, the release of Khodorkovsky, a foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the two band members is designed to spruce up the country's image before the Winter Olympics, which begin Feb. 7. Tensions over human rights, including gay rights, as well as other issues have strained relations with the West.
Dennis Rodman's birthday gift to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is still on track, the former NBA star said after leaving North Korea on Monday. Rodman's short visit was aimed at finalizing plans to bring former NBA players to Pyongyang for a Jan. 8 exhibition game marking Kim's birthday. But some of the ex-NBA players had expressed apprehension. Kim's uncle Jang Song Taek, considered one of the country's most powerful leaders, was executed earlier this month for what was called his "dissolute and depraved life."
Officials have strengthened security at Manila's Ninoy Aquino International airport after attacks on Dec. 20 killed a mayor from a southern province. His wife and two others also were killed by men who wore police uniforms. The government is working toward a peace pact with Muslim rebels, who are most active in the southern part of the 7,000-island nation.
Sources: State Department, National Public Radio, Associated Press