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Tsipras in Strasbourg, US Army Cuts, Selfie Safety

Tsipras in Strasbourg, US Army Cuts, Selfie Safety

Photo: Thierry Roge/Zuma

LAST CHANCE FOR GREECE?

Greeted by a mix of cheers and boos, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday as the fate of his country’s membership in the Eurozone â€" and perhaps the ultimate destiny of the single currency itself â€" hangs in the balance.

  • The Greek leftist Syriza government has been given what is described as one last chance to rapidly submit a proposal after it failed to present a detailed plan in an emergency summit in Brussels following Sunday’s referendum.
  • Tsipras struck a conciliatory tone in his Wednesday morning address in Strasbourg, but was short on specifics. He called on the EU to avoid division, with Greece now required to present new proposals to avoid the “Grexit” by the end of Thursday, before a full European summit Sunday, Reuters reports.
  • "The greatest response by the Greek people at the time when there were such pressures with the banks closing, with the campaigns and the media terrorizing them into feeling that this is an end to talks with Europe end to negotiations with Europe," he added.
  • European Council President Donald Tusk said a Greek exit from the currency union would affect the whole of Europe, describing the current situation as the “most critical moment in the history of the Eurozone,” according to the BBC.
  • The spokesperson for the president of the Eurogroup and the European Stability Mechanism announced Wednesday that Greece had filed a proposal for financial aid under the Eurozone’s bailout program, Le Monde reports.

TALIBAN AND AFGHAN OFFICIALS PEACE TALKS PROMISING

Taliban representatives and Afghan officials have agreed to resume peace talks after the end of Ramadan, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Wednesday. Both parties, along with negotiators that included Pakistan, China and the U.S., held groundbreaking talks in the Pakistani capital Islamabad Tuesday. Little was made public about yesterday’s talks, but officials said the two parties broke the ice over “iftar,” the meal Muslims eat after sunset during Ramadan.


U.S. ARMY TO CUT 40,000 TROOPS

The U.S. Army plans to cut 40,000 soldiers from its ranks, at home and abroad, by the end of the 2017 budget year. A report obtained by USA Today says such a reduction, due to budget constraints, will “affect virtually all of its domestic and foreign posts.” The number of soldiers is expected to be reduced to 450,000. Going below this figure could raise doubts about the country’s ability to win a war, the Army had said in 2013. Most of these cuts were expected, as the the number of troops had planned to shrink after planned withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan.


MYANMAR SETS HISTORIC GENERAL ELECTION DATE

Voters in Myanmar will go to the polls on Nov. 8 in the country’s first contested general election since 1990, a senior election official has told the BBC. The ruling USDP (Union Solidarity and Development Party) will for the first time go head-to-head with Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy. The now 70-year-old Nobel laureate had won elections in 1990, but the results were nullified by the military junta.


VERBATIM

“Iran is dead serious. If the other parties are as serious, we will have an agreement for sure. That Iran is talking directly to the U.S. is a good move. We have broken a taboo,” Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Iran’s former president told The Guardian in an interview published Wednesday, hailing the direct talks between the Islamic Republic and the U.S. over Tehran’s nuclear program. Rafsanjani is a highly influential figure in Iran and a supporter of President Hassan Rouhani, elected in 2013. The nuclear talks in Vienna were extended by three more days Tuesday, but diplomats hope an agreement will be reached by the end of the week.


TWO KILLED IN U.S. MID-AIR PLANE CRASH

An F-16 fighter jet smashed into a small plane Tuesday over South Carolina, killing two people and raining down plane parts and debris over a wide swath of marshes and rice fields, AP reports. The two victims were aboard a small Cessna plane. The F-16 pilot managed to eject and is apparently uninjured.


60

The U.S. has trained only about 60 Syrians to fight ISIS in the region, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told Congress Tuesday, Al Jazeera reports. A program launched in May by the Pentagon had the aim to train 5,400 fighters a year to battle the terrorist organization.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Even as China has stepped up its efforts to effectively combat trafficking, drug-related crime is spreading and deepening throughout the country. Caixin reports: “Though it's certainly reasonable for China to adopt a strict policy. The problem is that cracking down won't touch the root of the problem of drug addiction, and can even wind up obscuring the essence of the problem.” Read the full article: China´s Drug War: The Temptation To Criminalize Addiction


ON THIS DAY


The alternative Californian musician Beck and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il share July 8? Here’s our 57-second shot of history


SELFIE-AWARENESS

After a rise in the number of deaths and injuries in selfie-related incidents, Russian authorities have launched a campaign urging people to try not to take pictures of themselves while standing in front of an incoming train, in presence of a dangerous animal, holding an unpinned grenade or on top of a railway bridge.

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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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