Barack-Raul, Brussels Hunt Expands, Bad Game Idea

Barack-Raul, Brussels Hunt Expands, Bad Game Idea


President Barack Obama’s second day itinerary of his historic visit to Cuba will include face-to-face negotiations with Cuban President Raul Castro, as well as a state dinner this evening at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana. The two leaders, who have met three times since the December 2014 surprise announcement of the diplomatic rapprochement, will address economic ties as well as Obama’s push for more political freedoms in Cuba. The three-day trip heralds the long-awaited end of the Cold War in Latin America, 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Read more on how the visit in being covered in the Americas, as well as newspaper front pages from the region and around the world.


After Friday’s capture near Brussels of suspected mastermind of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks Salah Abdeslam, Belgian authorities said this morning that they are searching for at least four other suspects, Le Monde reports. Belgian prosecutors identified a new suspected accomplice of Abdeslam, 24-year-old Najim Laachraoui, known by the alias Soufiane Kayal. The second suspect is Mohamed Abrini, a 31-year-old Belgian-Moroccan who was filmed on Nov. 11 in the company of Abdeslam. Brothers Khalid and Ibrahim El Bakraoui are also wanted, suspected of renting an apartment under false names where Abdeslam is believed to have hidden. Abdeslam, who was believed to have decided at the last moment not to carry out a suicide attack at the Stade de France soccer stadium, had evaded capture for four months. Authorities, who had previously suspected that he had fled to Turkey or Syria, now believe Abdeslam was in or around the Belgian capital the entire time.


A Russian court has found Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko guilty of murdering two Russian journalists near Ukraine's Luhansk, Russian news agency TASS reports this morning. Savchenko, who has been in Russian custody since 2014, says she will appeal the decision of the court, saying she was kidnapped in Ukraine and brought across the border into Russia before being charged. Her sentence is expected to be announced tomorrow.


South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff stated that North Korea fired five short-range projectiles this morning, flying about 200 kilometers before landing in the country’s own waters, Reuters reports. The launch came only three days after North Korea fired two mid-range ballistic missiles into the sea on Friday, adding to the already growing tensions over the country’s nuclear and rocket programs and the international sanctions imposed on Pyongyang.


The nationalities of the 13 exchange students killed in the Spanish bus crash were released this morning: Seven Italians, two Germans, one Romanian, one Frenchwoman, one Uzbekistani and one Austrian died in yesterday’s crash. The bus carrying exchange students between Valencia and Barcelona crashed a divider and tumbled across a motorway. Of the 44 survivors, 28 people were hospitalized. The veteran bus driver was to be questioned by a judge in a closed court today, but the hearing was postponed after the driver was taken to intensive care, Spanish daily El Periódico reports. Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said: "It appears an undetermined human error and not a mechanical failure was to blame … The driver has tested negative for alcohol and drugs so those factors are ruled out."


Celebrating 10 years of Twitter! This, and more, in today's shot of history.


Beyond her late 20s, a woman in Asia faces huge hurdles in finding a husband. It's especially hard if she is educated and has a career, Julie Zaugg writes for Le Temps: "In China, the average age of marriage has risen from 19 in 1950 to 27 years old today. In 2007, the Chinese government officially introduced the term Sheng-nu in its lexicon to describe single women over the age of 27. ... If these accomplished women find it hard to stay single, it is because they feel the burden of a patriarchal society that values youth above all else. ‘Age is very important in Asia,’ says Mein Lin, a resident of Hong Kong who runs a dating agency. ‘Men want younger women, whom they believe are more docile and admiring. At 25, they want someone who is 22, at 35, they look for someone who is 28, and at 40, they prefer women who are 31. After 35, women no longer exist.’"

Read the full article, Too Old At 27: The Extraordinary Pressures On Asian Women.


Photo: UE Syndication/ZUMA

Formula One driver and two-times World Champion Fernando Alonso walked unscathed from an impressive crash Sunday at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.



Former Conservative Party Leader Iain Duncan Smith told BBC Television’s "Andrew Marr Show" that his resignation as the UK Work and Pensions Secretary last week was not meant to undermine Prime Minister David Cameron amid Conservative Party divisions over the EU, Bloomberg reports. Duncan Smith, one of the leading campaigners within the Tories to leave the EU, resigned late Friday, sending Cameron a letter that attacked a series of decisions to cut welfare.


Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei used a Persian New Year ceremony in the city of Mashhad yesterday to complain that sanctions continue to bite Iran’s economy, and again warned against trusting the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reports. Khamenei welcomed the sanctions relief following the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers including the U.S. two months ago, but has expressed suspicion on the intentions of America â€" Iran’s avowed enemy for more than three decades. "They removed the sanctions in paper only," Khamenei said in the televised address. “We don’t have any problem with the American people. What we are dealing with here is the politicians. They are the enemies.”


A Dutch company has created an "escape the room" game modeled on Anne Frank's Amsterdam hideout. The Anne Frank Foundation has condemned the game.

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Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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