WHILE YOU SLEPT

Crazy Killers, Bernie On Board, Tall Dutch

SPOTLIGHT: MASS KILLINGS AND MENTAL INSTABILITY

A knife-wielding man killed 19 people in their sleep and injured at least 25 others overnight at a care center for people with mental disabilities in the Japanese city of Sagamihara. The man has been identified as 26-year-old Satoshi Uematsu, a former employee of the center, and has turned himself him to the police after what is an extremely rare mass killing in one of the most peaceful countries in the world.


There is early evidence that the killer himself suffered from mental illness, or was at least unfit to live in society: He had previously threatened to kill hundreds of disabled people and was committed to hospital before being released after two weeks.


In what otherwise have been much different circumstances, the recent perpetrators of attacks in Nice, Munich and Orlando had also previously displayed outward signs of mental instability. This is a reminder of the importance of better understanding and intervening in cases of mental illnesses, especially as our visually connected world spreads images of one killing that can trigger others. No doubt many will describe this morning’s attack in Japan as “senseless,” even as it becomes harder to differentiate the wave of Islamic-inspired terrorists from other mentally disabled killers. Still, no matter the combination of causes that lead to such acts, we should never forget that prevention of violence is not just the work of police.



WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY

  • Day 2 of the Democratic National Convention. Trayvon Martin’s mother and Bill Clinton to speak, among others.
  • World Youth Day Kicks Off In Krakow.
  • Apple and Twitter report earnings.


10 KILLED IN MOGADISHU BLASTS

At least 10 people were killed this morning in two car bomb blasts near the Mogadishu airport in Somalia’s capital, the BBC reports. The islamist terror group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack and said an African Union peacekeepers base was the target.


ONE DEAD IN FRANCE HOSTAGE SITUATION

One person, believed to be a priest, has been reported killed after two armed men took several people hostage in a church this morning near Rouen, in northern France. The television network France 3 reports that a priest, two nuns and several churchgoers were among those held by two hostage-takers armed with knives, who have been shot dead by police.


â€" ON THIS DAY

Is turning 73 getting him some satisfaction? That, and more, in today’s 57-second shot of History.


MICHELLE OBAMA, SANDERS BACK CLINTON

The Democratic National Convention has opened in Philadelphia as the party tries to unify in support of Hillary Clinton in her upcoming showdown against Donald Trump. First Lady Michelle Obama yesterday praised Clinton while attacking Trump without naming him. “Our motto is, when they go low, we go high, she said.” The night ended with Bernie Sanders facing booing by some of his supporters as he also called for party unity and insisted that “Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States.”


FIRST EUROPEAN MICROCEPHALY BIRTH

A Spanish woman gave birth yesterday in Barcelona to the first baby in Europe to be infected with the Zika virus, El País reports. The mother had previously travelled to an unnamed country in Latin America, where the virus is prevalent. The parents had been informed by doctors that the baby would have microcephaly.


â€" WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

As births by Israeli settlers tops Palestinians in the West Bank, the "demographic advantage" could vanish, and undermine hopes for a peace settlement. From Jerusalem, Giordano Stabile writes for Italian daily La Stampa: “Settlers seem to have taken the Biblical instruction to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ literally, and represent the fastest-growing demographic in the region with a yearly population increase of 3%. While the United Nations has criticized the expansion of West Bank settlements as an obstacle to peace, the construction boom has created tensions within Israel over competition for limited living space. ... ‘We need 40,000 to 60,000 new apartments each year,’ says Alon Tal, a demographer at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. ‘This pace of construction puts our biodiversity at risk.’”

Read the full article, Israeli Settler Birthrate Tops Palestinians â€" A Political Problem.


VERBATIM

“The Brazilian political system is collapsing,” Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, whose mandate is currently suspended as she awaits an impeachment trial in August, said in an interview with Radio France International.


SOLAR IMPULSE 2 COMPLETES ROUND-THE-WORLD TRIP

The Swiss solar-powered plane Solar Impulse 2 landed in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, early this morning after an unprecedented flight around the world without using a single drop of fossil fuel, as Geneva daily Le Temps reports. The plane, which took off in March 2015 and completed 17 legs, spent a total of 23 days in the air and travelled more than 40,000 kilometers.


â€" MY GRAND-PERE’S WORLD

Venice Vicinity â€" Comacchio, 1973


KERRY, LAVROV DISCUSS SYRIA

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov met today on the sidelines of a meeting of Southeast Asian nations in Laos to discuss closer military cooperation between the two countries on Syria, Reuters reports. Successful talks would see Moscow and Washington share more intelligence to coordinate air strikes against the al Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front and prohibit the Syrian air force from attacking moderate rebel groups.


50

For the first time on record, temperatures in every square inch of all 50 states in the U.S. for the next three months will be above average, according to USA Today. These lasting high temperatures are caused by a series of factors that include unusually warm ocean temperatures, a blocking pattern in the upper atmosphere preventing the formation of clouds and rain and, more generally, man-made climate change.


MORE STORIES, EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH BY WORLDCRUNCH

WHO’S THE TALLEST?

Dutch men, according to researchers at Imperial College in London. They have an average height of 182.5 centimeters (just under 6 ft), as compared to 169 centimeters (about 5 ft 6) just one century ago. Dutch women are also the second tallest in the world, after the ladies of Latvia.

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Geopolitics

Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3

-Analysis-

LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.


Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

commons.wikimedia.org

Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

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