Geopolitics

Ebola Hopes, No Russia-Ukraine Deal, Best Age To Die

Hong Kong's "Occupy Central" protesters on Tuesday
Hong Kong's "Occupy Central" protesters on Tuesday
Worldcrunch

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

ISIS SHOWS OFF CAPTURED U.S. WEAPONS
ISIS fighters released a video in which they appear to be in possession of at least one cache of weapons dropped two days ago by U.S. military aircraft and intended to supply Kurdish fighters battling against the terrorist group in the Syrian border town of Kobani, The Daily Telegraph reports. U.S. military officials said they were investigating the video but insisted that the “vast majority” of supplies ended up in the right hands. The weapons showed by ISIS include hand grenades, ammunition and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights warned that ISIS fighters could have seized more than one cache. Meanwhile, news emerged that three American teenage girls were arrested in Germany this weekend by FBI agents. According to U.S officials, the three Colorado girls, aged 15, 16 and 17, were on their way to Turkey, from where they hoped to join ISIS militants in Syria. They have since been returned to their families.

EBOLA HOPES: SERUM AND VACCINE?
A serum made from the blood of cured Ebola patients will be available in Liberia, the nation worst hit by the virus, within weeks while test of two potential vaccines will begin in two weeks, with the first results expected by the end of the year, the BBC reports, quoting a World Health Organization official. NBC meanwhile announced that a cameraman diagnosed with Ebola after filming in Liberia has now been cured.

TENT CITY
A sea of tents covers the streets of Hong Kong as the "Occupy Central" pro-democracy movement continues to occupy the city's central district.

NO RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEAL ON GAS
Hopes that a crucial gas deal between Russia and Ukraine would be signed yesterday failed to materialize. The Financial Times reports that the deal was scuttled after Moscow asked for guarantees from Kiev’s Western supporters that the Ukrainian government could pay for the supplies,. Despite agreeing earlier to a knockdown price of $385 per thousand cubic meters as long as Kiev paid its bills in advance, Russia is still awaiting the payment of $3.1 billion in two tranches this year to cover Ukraine’s gas debt to Gazprom.

UN TO LAUNCH GAZA WAR INQUIRY
Ban Ki-moon said yesterday that the United Nations would “move forward” with an independent investigation into attacks on UN facilities during Israel’s military operation in Gaza this summer, including an attack on a UN school which left several Palestinians dead, Al Jazeera reports. The investigation is also expected to look into Israeli claims that Hamas used the facilities to hide weaponry. Speaking about the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip enclave and the need of humanitarian relief, the UN’s Secretary General said the “clock is ticking” and urged donors, who recently pledged a total of $5.4 billion in aid to “quickly materialize” their promises into concrete assistance as winter approaches.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
Writing in Tel Aviv-based Calcalist, Doron Peskin takes a closer look at the details after the fanfare surrounding the $5.4 billion pledged by Arab and Western governments to rebuild Gaza. “It is clear to all that the key to rebuilding Gaza is construction materials entering Gaza from either Israel or Egypt. Israel is concerned about the materials' end use — who's responsible for their transfer and who receives them. If these are Hamas members, as was the case in the aftermath of previous conflicts, they would certainly end up being used for rehabilitating Hamas tunnels and development of additional capabilities.”
Read the full article: Don't Count On That $5.4 Billion Pledge To Rebuild Gaza.

FAREWELL
Ben Bradlee, the top editor of the Washington Post during the Watergate scandal that toppled President Richard Nixon, has died at the age of 93. Here’s the Post’s own obituary of its longtime executive editor.

WHY SOUTH KOREA TORE DOWN "XMAS TREE" TOWER
South Korea has demolished a tower near the border with North Korea that used to provoke angry reactions from the officially atheist neighbor when it was decorated as a Christmas tree, news agency Yonhap reports. A Defense official said the decision was solely motivated by risks that the tower might collapse, but the destruction’s timing, just one week after top military officials from the two countries met for the first time in seven years, has led some observers to suggest it might be part of a “burgeoning reconciliatory mode.” This also comes amid Pyongyang’s decision to release Jeffrey Fowle, one of the three American citizens imprisoned in North Korea.

MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD


TOTAL SEEKS SUCCESSOR(S)

The board of French oil giant Total is holding an emergency meeting to decide on a new chief executive, after the death of Christophe de Margerie in a plane accident in Moscow late Monday. According to French business newspaper Les Echos, the company will decide to split the functions of chairman and chief executive previously held by de Margerie, a move that would then need to be approved by the company’s shareholders. Meanwhile, the driver of the snowplow that collided with the plane carrying de Margerie as it was taking off said he had “lost his bearings” and “didn’t notice” he was driving on the runway, AFP reports. His lawyer also denied claims that his client was drunk, explaining that he doesn’t drink because of a heart condition, though a medicine he might have taken contains alcohol.

BEST AGE TO DIE?
A top bioethics official at the US National Institutes of health has declared that the “full arc of life” is finished by the age of 75. Then it’s time to go ...

£55
Family doctors in England are to be paid £55 ($88) for each patient they diagnose with dementia in the six months up to next March, the National Health Service in England has announced. Critics have called it an ethical travesty.

VIOLIN HISTORY, CRASH COURSE
With 44 songs packed in just 12 minutes, this expand=1] video takes you through the history of violin and shows some of the best and most famous pieces ever written. Do check the YouTube page of collectivecadenza expand=1] for more instruments, you won’t regret it. If you are more the saxophone type, here’s something just in from our Hit It! feature.

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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]

🌎  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.

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

Thoughts on Facebook's new name? Zuckerverse? Tell us how the news look in your corner of the world: Drop us a note at info@worldcrunch.com!

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