Sources

Great American Writer And Iconoclast, Gore Vidal Dead

NPR, LOS ANGELES TIMES, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, THE NATION, ABC NEWS (USA)

Worldcrunch

Gore Vidal, American author and essayist whose prolific career spanned six decades, died Tuesday at age 86, reports NPR. He died at home from complications of pneumonia.

Translation: Famous novelist, playwright, critic, and politician, Gore Vidal, has died aged 86.

The reading public will remember him as a literary juggernaut who wrote 25 novels — from the historical "Lincoln" to the satirical "Myra Breckinridge" — and volumes of essays critics consider among the most elegant in the English language, writes the Los Angeles Times. He also brought shrewd intelligence to writing Broadway hits, Hollywood screenplays and television dramas says the Los Angeles daily.

Along with contemporaries such as Norman Mailer and Truman Capote, the Chicago Sun-Times remembers, Vidal was part of the last generation of literary writers who were also genuine celebrities — fixtures on talk shows and in gossip columns, personalities of such size and appeal that even those who hadn't read their books knew who they were.

The Chicago newspaper adds that Vidal was widely admired as an independent thinker — in the tradition of Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken — about literature, culture, politics and, as he liked to call it, "the birds and the bees." He picked apart politicians, living and dead; mocked religion and prudery; opposed wars from Vietnam to Iraq and insulted his peers like no other.

Vidal was a great man of letters, an author, playwright and groundbreaking essayist on American literature and the world, writes political blogger and Vidal friend John Nichols in The Nation. He was also a bold and unrelenting challenger of Puritanism, which he regarded as the ugliest of American tendencies.

Nichols remembers his friend as a political champion who ran campains for Congress and who demanded that presidents of both parties be held to account for high crimes and misdemeanors.

The grandson of Democratic Sen. Thomas Gore of Oklahoma, Gore Vidal was in 1960, the Democratic candidate for Congress in an upstate New York district writes ABC News. In 1982, Vidal came in second in the California Democratic senatorial primary, losing to incumbent Governor Jerry Brown.

Vidal never shied away from giving his opinion on subjects, especially politics, relates ABC News. In 1968, Vidal squared off with conservative William F. Buckley prior to the 1968 election, accusing Buckley of being a "crypto-Nazi." Buckley threatened to slap Vidal in the face.

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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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