Jordan's Revenge, Taipei Crash, Spiritual Rap

Jordan's Revenge, Taipei Crash, Spiritual Rap

Jordan hanged two Iraqi prisoners Wednesday in retaliation to the killing of a Jordanian pilot by the terrorist group ISIS. Sajida al-Rishawi, a female jihadist involved in a 2005 bombing that killed 60 people in Amman and whose liberation had recently been requested by ISIS, and Ziyad Karboli, a senior al-Qaeda member convicted in 2008 for the murder of a Jordanian, were executed at dawn, Al Jazeera reports.

  • The decision was carried out as Jordan, which is part of the international alliance against ISIS, vowed an “earth-shattering” response to the terrorist group’s burning alive of 26-year-old fighter pilot Muadh al-Kasasbeh, who had been captured by ISIS in December. Jordan state television suggested Muadh al-Kasasbeh was killed as early as Jan. 3, though the first reports arrived late Tuesday.
  • Three other convicted terrorists are also set to be executed Wednesday, according to The Guardian.
  • ISIS had previously suggested Muadh al-Kasasbeh’s life would be spared if Sajida al-Rishawi was freed.
  • This comes a few days after the execution of Kenji Goto, a Japanese journalist captured by the terrorist group in October 2014.
  • The White House has pledged to give Jordan $3 billion in security aid over the next three years.

At least 20 people were killed Wednesday when a TransAsia Airways plane carrying 53 passengers and 5 crew members crashed into a river shortly after taking off from Taipei airport.

  • The definitive number of those killed remains unclear, as search and rescue operations are still ongoing as night falls on Taiwan. The Chinese CCTV News puts the death toll at 21, while the South China Morning Post reports it may be as high as 23. These figures remain unconfirmed by authorities.
  • At least 28 people appear to have survived the crash, according to Reuters. A government official told The Telegraph that no survivors have now been found for several hours.
  • Dramatic video footage of the crash (see screenshot above) in the town of Keelung near the airport emerged online. It shows the aircraft cartwheeling over a motorway and partially crushing a taxi, after flying at low altitude over two buildings. It then crashed into Keelung River. The driver of the taxi is reported to have sustained a head injury but is in a stable condition.
  • The black boxes and their flight record have been recovered from the wreckage. Early reports suggest the pilot alerted air traffic control of an engine failure.
  • The crash comes just seven months after another TransAsia flight crashed while trying to land at Penghu Island in July, killing 48 of the 58 passengers and crew on board.
  • A live video stream of the search and rescue operations is available on Hong Kong’s Apple Live.

Nigerian and Chadian military jets were bombing Boko Haram positions in the northeast of Nigeria early Wednesday, according to AP. Chadian military sources also said their troops clashed Tuesday with the jihadist group in the northeastern Nigerian town of Gambaru, south of Lake Chad.

  • Cameroon military forces were also clashing with Boko Haram jihadists Wednesday morning in the city of Fotokol, from where the Chadian army launched its offensive, L’Express reports.
  • The operations come as African Union officials meet in Cameroon to finalize a mandate for a 7,500-strong multinational force to confront the extremists.

Not so many months ago, pollsters were saying she'd be Brazil's next president — but now she’s nowhere to be seen. Folha de S. Paulo’s Bernardo Mello Franco asks: Where in the world is Marina Silva? “The former candidate and environmental activist has even avoided events organized by political allies. Silva, in fact, hasn't been seen in public in almost two months. Erundina thinks someone who managed to gather 22 million votes just a few months ago shouldn't play hide-and-seek, especially now that the government is announcing unpopular economic measures such as tax hikes and benefit cuts.”
Read the full article, Brazil: Marina Silva Pulls Vanishing Act After Election Loss.

At least four people are reported dead after a shell hit a hospital in the rebel-held city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, the BBC reports. Violence between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces has increased in the region in recent weeks.

After Rome Tuesday, the new greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras visits Paris Wednesday, where he will meet the French President François Hollande to discuss relations between Greece and the European Union, according to Le Monde.
Meanwhile, the Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis was in Frankfurt to visit the European Central Bank, where he met with its President Mario Draghi, Die Welt reports. “We have had very prolific discussions,” the Greek PM declared. The meeting took place just a few hours before a meeting of the Governing Council of the ECB that should decide on an emergency financial support for Greek banks.


What do the Yalta Conference and Patty Hearst have in common? They’re both featured in today’s 57-second shot of history.

An investigation into the death of an Argentine prosecutor who accused President Cristina Kirchner of agreeing to shield the alleged masterminds of a 1994 terror bombing has revealed it found a draft document in which he requested her arrest, AP reports.

"U.S. imperialists will face final doom," North Korea's National Defense Commission, headed by Kim Jong-un, said in a statement Wednesday. Pyongyang added that it saw no more need to negotiate with the “gangster-like U.S. imperialists” as it accused Washington of plotting to “bring down” the North Korean regime, the state news agency KCNA reported. Such bellicose announcements are regularly issued by Pyongyang at this time of year, as annual joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea are usually carried out in March.


Now is your chance: a collective of graphic designers created a website in which you can mix your favorite hip hop samples with holy verses from the world’s major religions. Read more on our global music blog: Hit It!

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Queen Elizabeth II with UK PM Boris Johnson at a reception at Windsor Castle yesterday

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.



• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.

• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.

• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.

• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.

• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.

• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."

• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.


"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.



For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.


Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.

🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.

😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.

🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.

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We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.

— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.


Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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