eyes on the U.S.

A European Eye On Tucson: Symptom Of Uniquely American Insanity

A German commentator says the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords is not about politics, but guns -- and security measures are about to crank up even higher

While Gabrielle Giffords clung to life after her surgery in a Tucson hospital, America's political leaders took to the cable news channels with the indignant rhetoric that typically follows such sensational acts of violence. In strange unanimity, President Barack Obama and Sarah Palin condemned the murders as "senseless." As if there could be a reasonable use of force against a member of the United States Congress.

Echoing President Obama's words, John Boehner, the new Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, declared that violent crimes "have no place in our society." Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader, praised the "brilliant and courageous' Giffords, noting that she was gunned down while serving her constituents with "dedication and distinction." The overabundance of praise sounded embarrassingly much like an obituary. But after all, it is an American reflex to herald victims of senseless violence as heroes in the name of freedom.

Tucson's Sheriff was left to deplore the "poisonous rhetoric" of the country's political climate, especially in Arizona (home to radical anti-immigration laws), which he called a "Mecca for prejudice and hypocrisy." Sheriff Clarence Dupnik implied that the half-playful calls to violence and campaign slogans of the extreme political right (such as Palin's "Don't retreat, reload!") may actually cause disturbed individuals to become real offenders. When asked if his daughter has enemies, Giffords' badly shaken father replied, "Yes, the Tea Party."

There is not point in sifting through the reading list on the blog of the alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner, 22, to draw any conclusions: Loughner lists Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and Karl Marx's "Communist Manifesto" alongside Orwell, Hesse, Aesop and Plato as his favorites. On various Internet sites, the college dropout wrote confused, anti-government propaganda and claimed that schools were unconstitutional. He declared that the majority of citizens in Arizona's Eighth congressional district, which Giffords' represents are "illiterate - ridiculous."

On December 30, the gunman wrote: "With every concern, my shot is now ready for aim. The hunt, a mighty thought of mine." Superfluous as it must sound, we must now mention that the murder weapon, a nine-millimeter semi-automatic with an extended magazine, was acquired legally, according to initial findings. In Arizona, weapons may be carried openly in bars, churches and political rallies.

Every known criticism has been made of the estimated 200 million firearms that are currently in the hands of 300 million Americans, including infants and the elderly. But these criticisms seem to fall on deaf ears. There is a gentle, libidinous relationship between many Americans and their firearms. And the Second Amendment, which guarantees their right to bear arms, cannot be shaken. When citizens are encouraged to lead an armed rebellion against Washington at a Tea Party rally, it's just another day in America. All quiet on the Western Front, you might say.

Many of the same people that denounce the horrors of bloody crimes that can only claim so many victims through the use of automatic weapons hypocritically continue to defend Kalashnikovs as weapons for hunting deer. In Arizona, six people, including a judge and a nine-year-old girl, have been killed, and 14 lie seriously injured in hospitals. The offender may face the death penalty.

Unlike the leaders of both chambers, regular members of Congress enjoy no personal protection unless they receive concrete threats. These shootings will certainly spark a debate on whether public representatives should barricade themselves even further behind a wall of bodyguards. Thirty years ago, citizens were free to move about Capitol Hill to speak with their Washington representatives directly; it was a house of the people. Then, in 1983, a bomb exploded outside the entrance to the Senate and the security checks began.

Since 9/11, Congress has become a fortress surrounded by numerous rings of security. Now, the open public meetings and meet-and-greets such as the one Gifford organized in Tucson may be sacrificed for the new fear of assassination. Four U.S. presidents, most recently John F. Kennedy, have been assassinated by gunshot; Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan were shot and narrowly escaped. In the history of the United States, five members of Congress have died at the hands of assassins. Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968 was the most prominent victim, while Leon Ryan, who was killed in 1978 in Guyana, was the most recent to date.

John McCain, one Arizona's two senators, went farthest in his horrified condemnation of the shootings, stating, " Whoever did this; whatever their reason, they are a disgrace to Arizona, this country and the human race, and they deserve and will receive the contempt of all decent people and the strongest punishment of the law."

Daniel Hernandez, who has only been on Giffords' team for five days, probably saved her life. The young intern, who is a trained paramedic, was standing about ten meters away when the shooting occurred. After seizing the fallen Gifford, he took her pulse and pressed his hand against her forehead, which he believed to be the site of the entrance wound. He pulled the congresswoman, who was quiet but conscious, into his lap, holding her head high so that she would not choke on the blood in her throat. He held this position until the paramedics arrived. Inside the ambulance, he softly squeezed her hand. Hernandez says Giffords squeezed it back.

Read the original article in German

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Running of the Bulls in Tafalla, northern Spain

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Здравейте!*

Welcome to Monday, where an apparent coup is underway in Sudan, Colombia's most-wanted drug lord gets caught, and Michael Jordan's rookie sneakers score an auction record. We also focus on a report that the Thai government is abusing the country's centuries-old law to protect the monarchy from criticism (lèse-majesté) to target pro-democracy activists and protesters.

[*Zdraveite - Bulgarian]


• Developing: Sudan leaders arrested amid military coup reports: Soldiers have arrested several members of Sudan's transitional government as well as civilian leaders, and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has reportedly been put under house arrest, in what the information ministry called a military coup. Pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets of the capital city Khartoum where there are reports of gunfire and clashes.

• Colombia's most wanted drug lord to be sent to U.S.: Colombia's most dangerous drug trafficker, known as Otoniel, was caught after a joint army, air force and police operation and faces extradition to the U.S. He led the country's largest criminal gang, and was on the U.S. most wanted list for years.

• Xi speech marks China's UN anniversary: China's President Xi Jinping marked the 50th anniversary of Beijing's entry into the United Nations with a speech calling for greater global cooperation, adding that issues like climate change, terrorism and cyber security needed multilateral solutions. Taiwan was not mentioned.

• German ISIS bride jailed for crimes against humanity: A German court has sentenced a German woman and former member of the Islamic State to 10 years in prison for letting a 5-year-old Yazidi enslaved girl die of thirst in Iraq. The case is one of the world's first trials to prosecute a war crime against the Yazidis.

• COVID update: The Beijing marathon scheduled next weekend has been postponed until further notice as China seeks to stamp out Delta variant outbreak and return to zero cases ahead of the Winter Olympics next February. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases in Eastern Europe have surpassed the 20 million mark as the region fights against its worst outbreak since the pandemic started and vaccination efforts lag.

Goodbye, Gunther: U.S. actor James Michael Tyler, best known for his role as the barista Gunther on the TV show Friends, has died at 59 of prostate cancer.

• Sneakers record: A pair of Michael Jordan's white-and-red Nike shoes, which he wore during his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls in 1984, sold for $1.47 million — a new record price for sneakers at auction.


"The end of a boss," titles Colombian daily El Espectador, reporting on the arrest of drug lord Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, who had led Colombia's largest criminal gang and had been on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's most wanted list for years. He was captured in a raid and will be extradited to the U.S.



A Georgia man is being prosecuted for wire fraud after spending most of his business's COVID relief loan to buy one Pokémon trading card for $57,789.


How Thailand's "Lèse-Majesté" law is used to stifle all protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

👑 Thailand's Criminal Code "Lèse-Majesté" Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family. But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

🚨 The recent report "Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand," documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations." The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

💻 The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them. Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind.

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"Children are going to die. People are going to starve."

— The United Nations warns that Afghanistan verges on a "total breakdown" as millions of Afghans, including children, could die of starvation unless urgent action is taken by the international community. The agency calls for the release of frozen assets to avoid economic and social collapse, despite concerns over the Taliban government. A recent report said that about 97% of Afghanistan's population may sink below the poverty line, and World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley warned that more than half of Afghanistan's population of 39 million were facing acute food insecurity and "marching to starvation" in comparison to 14 million two months ago.


Dutch cities have been secretly probing mosques since 2013

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.

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talked 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.

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.

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

Are you more Chicago Bulls or running of the bulls? Let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! info@worldcrunch.com info@worldcrunch.com!

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