The Envoy
  • Invisible Children, the organization behind the viral smash hit "Kony 2012" video, released the sequel on Thursday.

    Like the original, half-hour documentary, this 20-minute film, titled "Kony 2012 Part II: Beyond Famous," attacks Joseph Kony, the Ugandan warlord featured in the first video. The new video also addresses critics who charged the first mini-documentary oversimplifies facts about the more than two-decade-old Central African conflict.

    One thing it doesn't address: Jason Russell's hospitalization. The 33-year-old filmmaker behind the original film sought treatment in March several weeks after the first video's release. The co-founder of the San Diego-based Invisible Children was detained by police after an apparent meltdown. Russell was shown on video running through the street in his underwear, "interfering with traffic, banging his hands on the sidewalk, yelling and screaming."

    Russell's wife said that he had suffered a "brief psychosis" following the unprecedented attention garnered from the first film, which attracted more than 86 million views on YouTube.

    "Doctors say this is a common experience given the great mental, emotional and physical shock his body has gone through in these last two weeks," Danica Russell said in a statement last month. "Even for us, it's hard to understand the sudden transition from relative anonymity to worldwide attention—both raves and ridicules, in a matter of days."

    Russell, who is still undergoing treatment, isn't featured in the sequel.

    The new film was released, in part, to promote an April 20 rally in New York City.

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  • Iran nuclear talks set to resume, diplomats say

    President Obama met with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan in Seoul on March 25, 2012. (Anatolian News Agency)Major powers are set to resume high-stakes negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program starting on April 13th or 14th, diplomats said Tuesday. The talks will probably take place in Turkey, although they cautioned discussions were still continuing.

    "We're not going to get involved in a silly back and forth over venue," one American official said Tuesday on condition of anonymity, because the talks have not yet been announced. "If the Iranians give us a final yes, expect an announcement shortly."

    The extensive discussions and effort required to even settle on a date and locale for the talks are but one sign of the daunting task faced by diplomats trying to reach an actual substantive accord with Iran over its nuclear program. Former Israeli intelligence chief Efraim Halevy warned this week of signs of a wider level of international diplomatic disarray that is ominous.

    If the Iran talks fail, there will be "nothing else left" but military action, Halevy told Israeli newspaper the Times of Israel in an interview Sunday. And it's "tragic," Halevy said, that "I don't see any great effort being made" by the so-called P5+1 group--the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Russia and China--to "prepare urgently and effectively" for those talks, the paper reported.

    "Talks regarding the venue are under way," Iran Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Wednesday, Reuters reported. "Turkey has announced its willingness to host the talks between Iran and major powers, and it seems that P5+1 has welcomed it. This suggestion has also been given to Iran and we are considering it."

    President Obama has repeatedly said he wants to give diplomacy a chance to resolve international concerns over Iran's nuclear program, but warned the window to do so is narrow. "There is time to solve this diplomatically, but time is short," Obama said Monday in Seoul, South Korea. "Iran must act with the seriousness and sense of urgency that this moment demands."

    The apparent settling on Istanbul as a venue for the talks came after President Obama held a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the Seoul nuclear summit Sunday. Erdogan announced at that meeting that he would be traveling to Iran after Seoul.

    The Turkish leader alluded to those discussions when he arrived in Iran Wednesday. "I had consultations in South Korea with Iran's counterpart in the talks," Erdogan said Wednesday in Iran, Reuters reported. "And we are awaiting results of these consultations and their views. Our intention is to help the process of these talks."

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  • Pope Benedict urges greater openness in Cuba


    Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Havana Tuesday on the second day of his historic visit to Cuba, the first papal visit to the communist Caribbean island nation in 14 years. The pontiff is expected to meet with Cuban President Raul Castro and possibly his brother Fidel, the ailing former revolutionary leader. Latin America watchers said the Castro government has refused to allow any Cuban dissidents to meet with the pontiff, and resisted the pope's calls for greater openness. But the Cuban Catholic church has been energized by the visit, others said.

    "For the Catholic Church in Cuba to have the Pope's blessing now — with the role it is playing, engaging with the Cuban government — is really huge," said Sarah Stephens, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Democracy in the Americas, in an email to Yahoo News, from Cuba Tuesday, where she is currently traveling.

    "For the American audience, this is an important opportunity to give a broader U.S. public a lesson about the extent of religious freedom in Cuba and the willingness of the Cuban government to give the Pope a platform to talk about his aspirations for the Cuban people," Stephens said. "These things are not anticipated or understood given how cut-off Americans are from the complicated realities of Cuba."

    Some scholars suggested the pope could push back on the Cuban government's refusal to allow dissidents to meet with him."The Cuban government removed any opportunity for dissidents to meet with the pope and be in meetings where he is," David Smock, director of the program on religious studies and peace-building at the U.S. Institute of Peace told Yahoo News Tuesday. "The pope can make a strong statement and insist he be allowed to do so, but he has not been inclined to do so so far."

    The Catholic Church "has been in decline through the communist-Castro period," Smock noted. Only about 10 percent of Cuba's population is estimated to practice the faith.

    "I think he's trying to revive it; that's the main purpose of his visit," Smock said. "I think he wants to make some statement about greater openness and transition to a freer society, but he's been very muted."

    The pontiff did allude to wanting more freedom, but fell short of becoming political in his statements. "I have also prayed to the Virgin for the needs of those who suffer, of those who are deprived of freedom, those who are separated from their loved ones or who are undergoing times of difficulty," Pope Benedict XVI, 84, said at a chapel in the Cuban town of El Cobre, site of the statue of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, the Associated Press reported.

    Cuban officials bristled at the pope's calls for greater openness, however. "In Cuba there will not be political reform," Cuban economic czar Marino Murilla told foreign journalists covering the visit, the AP report said.

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