Geopolitics

Attacks Target Egypt, FIFA Absolves Itself, S. Korea Goes Quiet

Two window washers were left dangling for almost two hours from the 69th floor of One World Trade Center Wednesday afternoon.
Two window washers were left dangling for almost two hours from the 69th floor of One World Trade Center Wednesday afternoon.
Worldcrunch

Thursday, November 13, 2014

SERIES OF ATTACKS TARGET EGYPT
A series of apparently unrelated attacks has targeted Egypt, the most significant and unusual being one on an Egyptian navy ship yesterday in the Mediterranean Sea, which left five servicemen injured and eight more missing at sea. Four of the gunmen were killed and 32 arrested. Then this morning a small bomb exploded in the Cairo Metro during rush hour, causing a stampede in which at least 16 people were injured, while more attacks against security forces in Sinai killed two policemen and three soldiers. It’s unclear whether the attacks are connected, but Islamist groups are likely to be blamed, especially after Sinai-based jihadist group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis swore allegiance to ISIS earlier this week.

The Egyptian and the United Arab Emirates embassies were also targeted by car bombs this morning in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, though nobody was hurt because the diplomatic missions left the buildings months ago after Islamist militias took control of the city. Both Egypt and the UAE were reported a few months ago to have carried out airstrikes against Islamist groups in Libya. Read more from AP.

SNAPSHOT
Two window washers were left dangling for almost two hours from the 69th floor of One World Trade Center Wednesday afternoon.

U.S. ACCUSES RUSSIA OF “FUELING WAR” IN UKRAINE
Amid NATO allegations that Russian troops and military equipment are entering Ukraine, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, Samantha Power, accused Moscow of “fueling war,” the BBC reports. Russian deputy UN ambassador Aleksandr Pankin denied the claims, which he described as “propaganda.” This comes amid intensifying fights in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. The Daily Telegraph meanwhile reports that Vladimir Putin added 55 tons of gold to Russia’s coffers over a three-month period, more than any other country, as Moscow prepares for a potential economic war with the West.

VERBATIM
If I had one wish for football, it would be that FIFA was disbanded and replaced by a transparent governing body that put its sport first,” former England soccer player Gary Lineker, who is currently a sports broadcaster, wrote Thursday on Twitter. His comment came after the international soccer governing body cleared Qatar — and itself — of corruption allegations over the country’s successful bid to organize the 2022 World Cup, the BBC reports. Read more here.

A GIANT LEAP, AND TWO BOUNCES
European Space Agency scientists feared for a time that the Philae craft that landed yesterday on a comet had failed to stay on the surface. But after a tense several hours, they confirmed that the small robot probe was stable after bouncing twice because of the comet’s low gravity and a failure in the harpoon system, but was now stable. Controllers are retrieving the first pictures taken by Philae, including this stunning shot.

Retrieving photos isn’t as easy as it may seem. There is a 28-minute delay in sending a command to the probe, more than 300 million miles away — and it takes another 28 minutes to get a confirmation signal back to Earth.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
As Mada Masr’s Isabel Esterman reports, Egypt’s most promising researchers are packing up and moving abroad. “In the 2014-15 edition of the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness report, Egypt ranked 135 out of 144 countries worldwide for the quality of scientific research institutions, and 136 for overall quality of higher education in math and science,” the journalist writes. “The country ranked well for the availability of scientists and engineers, at number 40, but only 132 in capacity for innovation. ...The situation has not always been this bad, says geoarcheologist Fekri Hassan, a member of the Egyptian Scientific Academy who has taught in universities across Europe and the United States and now serves as director of the Cultural Heritage Program at the French University in Egypt. ‘Even though Egypt was still poor, I think it was a lot different than it is now.’”
Read the full article, Why Egypt's Brightest Scientific Minds Move Abroad.

ISRAEL WON’T COOPERATE WITH UN PROBE
Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced late yesterday that the country would not cooperate with a UN Human Rights Council investigation into the Gaza military operation this summer, branding it as “one-sided,” The Times of Israel reports. The three members of the investigative committee were barred from entering the territory and are stranded in the Jordan capital of Amman. Israeli authorities in Jerusalem, meanwhile, approved a construction project of another 200 settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. Washington said it was “deeply concerned” about the decision, which is “contrary to Israel's own stated goal of achieving a two-state solution.”

MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD


EXPERIMENTAL EBOLA DRUGS TO BE TESTED
Medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders will start three trials of experimental Ebola drugs in West Africa next month, The Guardian reports. Such tests are unprecedented because they will bypass the usual but lengthy path of clinical trials in animals and healthy humans, a move the charity described as “an exceptional measure in exceptional circumstances.” The group and its partners are hoping the drugs can stop the disease from spreading and can cure patients, even as the World Health Organization announced that the death toll now stands at 5,160 out of 14,098 people infected across eight countries.

CHINESE HACKERS TARGET U.S. WEATHER NETWORK
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which includes the National Weather Service, told The Washington Post that Chinese hackers had breached its weather system in late September, though the attack wasn’t reported to the proper authorities. The revelation comes two days after news that Chinese government operatives may have hacked into the U.S. Postal Service. “Cyberattack is quite common in today’s cyberspace,” an official at the Chinese embassy told the newspaper. “Jumping to conclusions on its origin without hard evidence is not responsible at all.”

THE HUSH OVER SOUTH KOREA
Some 650,000 South Korean students are sitting for annual university entry exams today. And as a country that is typically praised for its academic superiority, South Korea goes to extraordinary lengths to ensure the best possible testing conditions, The Daily Telegraph reports. Employees at government offices and large companies are starting work one hour later to keep roads free of traffic, and vehicles are forbidden from circulating near exam centers. Planes all over the country are even being grounded during the 40-minute English listening test. Oh, and did we mention the emergency service for those who accidentally slept in?

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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.

[*Danish]

💡  SPOTLIGHT

"The truest hypocrisy": the Russia-NATO clash seen from Moscow

Russia has decided to cut off relations with the Western military alliance. But Moscow says it was NATO who really wanted the break based on its own internal rationale. Here's Pavel Tarasenko and Sergei Strokan writing for Kommersant:

The Russian Foreign Ministry's announcement that the country's permanent representation to NATO would be shut down for an indefinite period is a major development. But from Moscow's viewpoint, there was little alternative.

These measures were taken in response to the decision of NATO on Oct. 6 to cut the number of personnel allowed in the Russian mission to the Western alliance by half. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the removal of accreditations was from eight employees of the Russian mission to NATO who were identified as undeclared employees of Russian intelligence." We have seen an increase in Russian malicious activity for some time now," Stoltenberg said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called NATO's expulsion of Russian personnel a "ridiculous stunt," and Stoltenberg's words "the truest hypocrisy."

In announcing the complete shutdown in diplomacy between Moscow and NATO, the Russian Foreign Ministry added: "The 'Russian threat' is being hyped to strengthen the alliance's internal unity and create the appearance of its 'relevance' in modern geopolitical conditions."

The number of Russian diplomatic missions in Brussels has been reduced twice unilaterally by NATO in 2015 and 2018 - after the alliance's decision of April 1, 2014 to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between Russia and NATO in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea. Diplomats' access to the alliance headquarters and communications with its international secretariat was restricted, military contacts have frozen.

Yet the new closure of all diplomatic contacts is a perilous new low. Kommersant sources said that the changes will affect the military liaison mission of the North Atlantic alliance in Moscow, aimed at promoting the expansion of the dialogue between Russia and NATO. However, in recent years there has been no de facto cooperation. And now, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced, the activities of the military liaison mission will be suspended. The accreditation of its personnel will be canceled on November 1.

NATO told RIA Novosti news service on Monday that it regretted Moscow's move. Meanwhile, among Western countries, Germany was the first to respond. "It would complicate the already difficult situation in which we are now and prolong the "ice age," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters.

"Lavrov said on Monday, commenting on the present and future of relations between Moscow and the North Atlantic Alliance, "If this is the case, then we see no great need to continue pretending that any changes will be possible in the foreseeable future because NATO has already announced that such changes are impossible.

The suspension of activities of the Russian Permanent Mission to NATO, as well as the military liaison and information mission in Russia, means that Moscow and Brussels have decided to "draw a final line under the partnership relations of previous decades," explained Andrei Kortunov, director-general of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, "These relations began to form in the 1990s, opening channels for cooperation between the sides … but they have continued to steadily deteriorate over recent years."

Kortunov believes the current rupture was promoted by Brussels. "A new strategy for NATO is being prepared, which will be adopted at the next summit of the alliance, and the previous partnership with Russia does not fit into its concept anymore."

The existence and expansion of NATO after the end of the Cold War was the main reason for the destruction of the whole complex of relations between Russia and the West. Today, Russia is paying particular attention to marking red lines related to the further steps of Ukraine's integration into NATO. Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously stated this, warning that in response to the alliance's activity in the Ukrainian direction, Moscow would take "active steps" to ensure its security.

Pavel Tarasenko and Sergei Strokan / Kommersant

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• 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.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"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.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

98

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.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

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.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"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.

🇮🇷🎓  IN OTHER NEWS

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.

📸  PHOTO DU JOUR

\u200bQueen Elizabeth II talks to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a reception for international business and investment leaders at Windsor Castle during yesterday's Global Investment Summit. Today, the 95-year-old British monarch was advised by her doctors to cancel a two-visit to Northern Ireland, although she is reportedly "in good spirits". \u2014 Photo: Pool/i-Images/ZUMA

Queen Elizabeth II talks to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a reception for international business and investment leaders at Windsor Castle during yesterday's Global Investment Summit. Today, the 95-year-old British monarch was advised by her doctors to cancel a two-visit to Northern Ireland, although she is reportedly "in good spirits". — Photo: Pool/i-Images/ZUMA

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

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