G20 Down Under, ISIS Leader's Alive, Federer Crushes

An immigration center in Rome has been under attack since Monday by angry locals
An immigration center in Rome has been under attack since Monday by angry locals

Friday, November 14, 2014

The summit season continues with a meeting of the G20 this weekend in Australia, where Prime Minister Tony Abbott is hoping to postpone climate change talk in favor of focusing on a growth target, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. But his wish will likely be challenged by U.S. President Barack Obama, who will pledge at least $2.5 billion over the next four years “to help poor countries invest in clean energy and cope with rising seas and extreme weather,” The Guardian reports.

Renewed tensions in Ukraine are also likely to draw the summit’s attention, as a Russia convoy is expected to cross the Ukraine border today. Moscow officials describe it as a new humanitarian convoy, but it comes after four Russian warships were deployed off the northeastern coast of Australia. The Australian press have described it as a provocation. Russia justified the decision, saying that the ships are testing their range capability in the event they are needed for climate change research in the Antarctic.

Rome's mayor yesterday ordered 45 children evacuated from an immigration center in Tor Sapienza, a poor neighborhood on the eastern outskirts of the capital.

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is believed to be alive after an audio recording emerged in which he reportedly urges followers to “erupt volcanoes of jihad everywhere,” The Independent reports. In the recording, al-Baghdadi refers to a U.S. announcement last Friday that 1,500 troops would be sent to Iraq, suggesting that he wasn’t killed in airstrikes that targeted ISIS terror leaders the following weekend. The airstrikes in which he was allegedly wounded aren’t mentioned. He also called for expanding the caliphate to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Libya and Algeria, and said that the U.S. operation was failing, forcing Washington to send ground forces to their deaths. This comes amid reports that ISIS and the al-Qaeda branch in the region, al-Nusra Front, have agreed to join forces.

Meanwhile, ISIS announced yesterday its intention to mint its own currency in gold, silver and copper, a move “purely dedicated to God" aimed at removing Muslims from the "global economic system that is based on satanic usury,” CNN quotes ISIS as saying.

The Iraqi government and the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq reached an agreement yesterday over oil exports and budget payments, ending a months-long standoff over a Kurdish decision to export oil produced in their region directly to Turkey and not through the Iraqi Oil Ministry, The New York Times reports. But the deal failed to address thornier issues, including control of Kirkuk oil fields, which the Kurdish authorities seized during the summer’s ISIS offensive.

Alexander Grothendieck, considered the 20th century's most accomplished mathematician, died at age 86 Thursday in the French town of Saint-Girons.

Nearly two weeks after Burkino Faso President Blaise Compaoré was ousted, the country’s military, political and civil leaders have agreed on a framework for transition to civilian rule, the BBC reports. Under the agreement, an interim president will be chosen by a special college composed of religious, military, political, civil and traditional leaders, and elections will be held next year. “The revolution is on. Now we have a real democracy,” a civil activist told AFP.
For more of the uprising in Ouagadougou, we offer this Le Monde/Worldcrunch piece: Burkina Faso, Sweet Revenge For "Sankara's Children".

As Les Echos’ Frédéric Therin reports, today’s cocoa plantations are too small and unproductive to meet global demand for chocolate. Industrialists have decided to intervene to help poor cocoa farmers and to save an indulgence beloved the world over. “‘It’s when we registered a cocoa demand greater than global production for the fifth consecutive year that everyone became aware of the problem we're facing,’ says Jürgen Steinemann, general manager of Barry Callebaut, the company that emerged from the fusion between the French Cacao Barry and the Belgian Callebaut in 1996. ‘It’s impossible to replace cocoa to make chocolate.’ And this shortage is starting to have a real impact on chocolate makers.”
Read the full article, Because No One Wants To Imagine A World Without Chocolate.

The U.S. Justice Department is using devices deployed on airplanes to mimic cellphone towers and collect mobile data, The Wall Street Journal reports. Though the technology is officially aimed at tracking criminals, the newspaper reports that it also scoops data from the phones of innocent people, with the devices later determining which belong to non-suspects. The report also notes that the “dirtbox” devices can sometimes interrupt calls, though authorities are reportedly careful that calls to 911 are not affected, and that encryption systems on smartphones don’t prevent the collecting process.


Internet retailer Amazon and French publishing house Hachette have reached a deal on ebook prices, ending a months-long dispute that led Amazon to reduce discounts for Hachette books and sometimes delayed the shipment of the publisher’s titles. Yesterday’s agreement is “an important victory” for Hachette, according to The New York Times. Beginning in January, the French publisher will have more control over the price of its ebooks. An analyst, however, told the newspaper that “in the end this all cements Amazon’s ultimate long-term role in this business, which will only put Hachette right back in this situation every time they are up for renegotiation.”

Fifty-six minutes is all it took for Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer to demolish Scotland's Andy Murray yesterday 6-0/6-1 in a round-robin match of London's ATP World Tour Finals.

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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.



• 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.


"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.



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.


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.

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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.


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

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