WHILE YOU SLEPT

London Mayor, Aleppo Truce, End Of “Bin Laden” Bills

Alberta fires
Alberta fires

WHAT A MUSLIM MAYOR COULD MEAN FOR LONDON

It’s Super Thursday in the UK, with voters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland choosing their next parliaments. But it’s the British capital, which is set to replace maverick Boris Johnson as mayor, that has eyeballs from around the world. Frontrunner Sadiq Khan, if elected, would be London’s first-ever Muslim mayor, which could have global ramifications and shake up the political machinations in Britain.

  • The final poll published in The London Evening Standard suggests that Khan, the Labour candidate, is on course to defeat Tory’s Zac Goldsmith.
  • The campaign has been marred by anti-Semitism accusationsagainst Labour figures, notably former mayor Ken Livingston. Khan has been quick to distance himself from those linked to the accusations.
  • The Guardian has endorsed Khan, and featured a powerful and personal essay by Ugandan-born British writer Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, entitled “Electing Sadiq Khan as mayor of London would be the terrorists’ worst nightmare.”
  • The Scottish Parliamentary elections will be dissected for the current strength of the independence movement. Read more from The Telegraph.

ALBERTA DECLARES FIRE EMERGENCY

The Canadian province of Alberta declared a state of emergency yesterday, as frantic efforts to contain the fire devastating the outskirts of the oil sands city of Fort McMurray proved unsuccessful, amid worsening weather conditions, CBC reports.


VERBATIM

“I am an innocent victim,” Dilma Rousseff told the BBC. The Brazilian president has been accused of obstructing justice in the ongoing corruption investigation around Petrobras, and is likely to be impeached by the Senate next week, which would suspend her from office for 180 days. In the interview, she described the impeachment as “illegitimate” that is “ultimately based on a lie.”


â€" ON THIS DAY

Did you know that Chanel No. 5 was introduced on 05/05, 95 years ago? That, and more, in today’s 57-second shot of history.


TRUMP AND THE DIVIDED GOP

After John Kasich threw in the towel yesterday, Donald Trump takes the reins of a Republican party grappling “with an identity crisis deeper than anything it has seen in half a century,” The Washington Post writes. The billionaire's “improbable coup” has “demolished just about every pillar of Republican philosophy,” and party members now have to decide whether to support a divisive Trump. In one notable case, neither of the Presidents Bush, father or son, will endorse him.


â€" WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Autonomous vacuum cleaners are just the beginning. As time goes by, artificially intelligent machines will play ever greater roles in our lives. ForLe Monde, Laurence Devillers (not a robot) starts asking some important questions: “Thanks to brain imaging, researchers know that humans can feel empathy towards mistreated robots, albeit without the same intensity as they do for mistreated humans.

This kind of emotional and social interaction between humans and robots gives rise to several ethical questions. How humanlike should developers be allowed to make robots? How autonomous should the machines be with regards to decision making? What about the ‘six-million-dollar-man’ scenario? Should there be limits on the use of robot technology to repair or enhance human beings? For now, few studies have attempted to answer those questions.”

Read the full article, The Robot Revolution Is Underway, But Are We Ready?


SHAKY SYRIAN TRUCE EXTENDED TO ALEPPO

The United States and Russia reached an agreement to extend a fragile ceasefire in Syria to the city of Aleppo, after days of intense fighting that killed dozens, Reuters reports.


DAVUTOGLU TO QUIT?

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is holding a press conference today on his possible resignation after months of growing tension with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Istanbul-based daily Milliyet, a paper reportedly close to Erdogan, welcomed the news on the front page of its Thursday edition.


â€" MY GRAND-PERE’S WORLD

The Lion Guards â€" Tunis, 1970


1.85 MILLION

The National Electoral Board of Venezuela has begun a verification process of the 1.85 million signatures presented by the opposition to demand a referendum on President Nicolas Maduro’s future. The collapse of Venezuela’s economy, with inflation predicted to hit 700% this year, cost Hugo Chavez’s successor dearly. A recent poll shows Maduro’s approval rating at just 26.8%. Still, it’s more than double than French PresidentHollande’s 13%. For more, here’s a Clarin piece on Maduro clinging to power.


â€" MORE STORIES, EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH BY WORLDCRUNCH

ECB KILLS 500-EURO-BILL

The European Central Bank announced yesterday it would stop printing the 500-euro-bill at the end of 2018, according to French daily Les Échos.” Often dubbed the “Bin Laden,” the banknote is a favorite among criminals. Others see the move as a major step towards a cashless economy.

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Society

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.

Hollandse-Hoogte/ZUMA

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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