Leela Jacinto is an award-winning international news reporter who has doggedly pursued stories across the globe. Along the way, she has harangued some officials, wined and dined with others, but has always kept her eyes on what’s in it for ordinary folks. A graduate of New York University, Leela has previously worked for ABC News in New York before joining FRANCE 24. In this blog, she provides insights on things you don’t necessarily see in the news bytes.
 

Jailed for refusing to serve in Israel’s Gaza offensive

On Aug. 11, Gilad Halpern will turn 33, but he won’t be home for his birthday. He will mark that milestone in an Israeli prison. That’s the price he’s willing to pay for being a conscientious objector.
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So, if France is not an anti-Semitic nation, is it an Islamophobic one?

The banning of recent Gaza protests in and around Paris has enflamed passions and exacerbated tensions in France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish communities.

Ignoring the Syrian side of the Sykes-Picot line

ISIS delivers a multilingual, postcolonial, post-national, proto-caliphate jihadist message to beat all prior propaganda ploys. So, why are we divorcing Iraq from Syria? And why do we always ignore a battlefield to rush into Iraq?

Kenyatta’s al Shabaab denial inflames Kenya’s divisive discourse

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta dragged Kenya’s whodunit into dangerous terrain when he insisted “politically motivated ethnic violence” – and not al Shabaab – was responsible for recent deadly attacks.

Maliki’s wrong: ISIS is so rich, it doesn’t need Saudi money

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has blamed Saudi Arabia for funding Islamists. But ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria) is also a threat to the Saudis and for once, Saudi money does not talk.

‘Blowback’ from Syria strikes Belgium, rattles France

The main suspect in the dealy May 24 Brussels Jewish Museum attack is a Frenchman who fought in Syria, marking Europe’s first case of a much-dreaded blowback from the Syrian conflict.

Old suspicions dog joint Nigeria-Cameroon Boko Haram fight

The West Africa Twittersphere was buzzing in the lead-up to the May 17 Paris summit on Nigeria’s security. Would he personally show up or would he simply send a representative?

Hollande issues ‘probable death’ notice – and everyone’s perplexed

It’s not often that the leader of a major Western European nation issues an official statement declaring someone "probably dead". That’s exactly what happened this week here in France.

A Tale of Two Indias

Two stories emerged from India this week. One was the case of two Indian women in New York from two contrasting backgrounds being treated very differently in the media. But there’s just one issue in all thess dichotomies...

Sharif goes to Washington, and the drone drama is scripted

A day before Nawaz Sharif met Barack Obama, news editors were reading from the same script – written by human rights groups. The day after, a carefully planted leak in a US daily supplied the other side.

Let’s admit it, we overlooked and underestimated al Shabaab

Westgate has shown that underestimated al Qaeda-linked Somali militant group and now the al Shabaab threat is at our doorsteps – our citizens were the victims, perpetrators, and our immigrant community leaders are being threatened.

Goodbye 'freedom fries': France’s mojo rises over Syria

In the lead-up to the Iraq War, the French were "cheese-eating surrender monkeys". A decade later, France is now America's staunchest ally on Syria. How did France turn from a white flag-fluttering country to a red-blooded nation of hawks?

Malala’s got mail from the Taliban, but what in the world does it mean?

A Pakistani Taliban commander’s letter to Malala Yousafzai is a sort of madcap Islamist version of William Hazlitt’s “On the conduct of life, or advice to a school-boy”.

Coup or whatchamacallit, Egypt is not Algeria, Pakistan, or any ‘stan

The “deep divisions” between secular and Islamist Egyptians are now being superseded by the yawning gap between the “it’s coup” and “it’s not a coup” camps. That’s all a matter of semantics. But one thing’s for sure, it’s not Algeria.

Riding the ‘talking to the Taliban’ train, with the brakes jammed

The “talking to the Taliban” policy was doomed to fail from the start. But it has seeped into the international agenda by osmosis and although the boat is sinking, it’s now too late to desert the ship.

Gimme Headley: NSA offers a bad example of effective US surveillance

What was NSA director Keith Alexander thinking when he brought up the case of the one brown-eyed, one green-eyed Pakistani-American, David Headley, as an example of how controversial surveillance programs can thwart terror attacks among friends?

Lebanese Film Banned: An Attack on ‘The Attack’

Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri’s film “The Attack” has been banned since parts of the award-winning film were shot in Israel. But the film is a nuanced portrait of Israeli Arab identities, a nuance lost on Lebanese officials.

Fathers, sons and brothers: Boston suspects and the Toulouse attacker

The Tsarnaev brothers and Mohamed Merah - the Frenchman of Algerian descent who went on a deadly rampage in Toulouse last year – had very different origins. But their trajectories share distressing similarities.

Egypt’s Jon Stewart ‘insults’ Pakistan, ‘cools’ Qatari relations: The show goes on…

Egyptian prosecutors are probing new complaints against TV satirist Bassem Youssef for “insulting Pakistan” just days after some critics warned that his skit lampooning Qatar would affect Egyptian-Qatari relations.

Old foes, new friends: Mali eases suspicious minds

In the old days, France was wary of the US messing around on its African turf. But the Mali intervention changed that. Then there’s Nigeria, France’s old Anglophone West African bogey, now turned new best friend. What a difference a war makes.