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Grim Ukraine, FIFA Ticket Scam, July 4 Hot Dogs

London protest against live exports out of the UK.
London protest against live exports out of the UK.

Friday, July 4, 2014

A truce between Israel and Hamas appeared to be on the cards this morning, after Egypt intelligence officials held negotiations with both sides, The Times of Israel reports. Despite the imminence of a possible ceasefire, more rockets were fired at Israel and IDF continued to fire artillery in Gaza, according to The Jerusalem Post. This comes as the family of Mohammed Abu Khdair, the 16 year-old Palestinian who was kidnapped and killed two days ago, is hoping to hold the boy’s funeral today, after the first Friday prayers of the Ramadan month, provided that the police release the body.

As Iraqi and U.S. officials have warned that ISIS fighters are preparing for an assault of Baghdad, the autonomous region of Kurdistan, in northern Iraq is moving closer to independence. According to The Guardian, the region’s president Massoud Barzani, who met with John Kerry last week, told the local Parliament: “The time has come to determine our fate and we should not wait for other people to determine it for us.” This increases the possibility of a partition of Iraq into three states. Sydney Morning Herald writer Chris Zappone reminds us that on top of the ISIS leader and self-proclaimed “Caliphate” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden have voiced their support to that idea. Meanwhile, AFP reports that a group of 46 Indian nurses trapped in the middle of the war were close to being freed.

A reportage published onThe Kyiv Post describes up close the human effects of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, where more than 200 civilians, including at least 15 children, have been killed in the past three months. Quoting rebel fighters, it reports allegations that Kiev fighter jets carried out airstrikes over a village near Luhansk, leaving behind destroyed houses and “bodies of residents scattered around the area.”

Compassion in World Farming and the NSPCA held a protest in front of DEFRA, The UK's Department For Food, Environment and Rural Affairs, asking to ban all live exports out of the country.

South Korea’s Park Geun-hye and China’s Xi Jinping have pledged to sign a bilateral free trade agreement by the end of this year in a bid to reinforce cooperation and economic ties between the two countries, the Financial Times reports. The move, which will also reinforce China’s currency, is expected to boost the annual Seoul-Beijing trade volume from $229 billion to $300 billion, Bloomberg explains.
Xi Jinping, who is currently visiting South Korea, also took a jab at the two countries’ Japanese rival, describing early 20th century conflicts against South Korea and China as “barbarous wars of aggression.”

In Hoek von Holland, a seaside town in the Netherlands, a highly gifted 11-year-old boy has created a private war zone in his everyday environment to help him maintain mental order. What should his parents do? Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Lorenz Wagner asks: “The retreat from the kindergarten war zone was a success. Neither the teacher nor his enemy — Mirco, Timon’s 10-year-old brother, chewing strawberry gum and armed with what is supposed to be a fully automatic carbine — had been able to capture him. Then there was Lidianne, his 6-year-old sister, who wears braids and holds a stuffed tiger wearing an army scarf under her arm.”
Read the full article, The Curious Case Of A Gifted Boy Comforted By War Games.

The Brazilian police have arrested 11 people as part of an investigation in a $100 million World Cup ticket scam, and said a top FIFA executive is involved in the scandal. The allegations are the latest in a series of affairs that have damaged the image of the global soccer authority. Meanwhile, two people were killed and 22 injured in the host city of Belo Horizonte when an overpass bridge collapsed. According to Brazilian newspaperO Globo, the unfinished construction was initially supposed to have been ready for the World Cup.

As Italy takes the rotating presidency of the European Union, the head of the Italian Navy has spoken out about the need for all of Europe to focus on the influx of illegal immigrants and refugees setting out for the continent.

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An investigation by Germany’s state broadcasters NDR and WDR revealed that the U.S. National Security Agency is tracking any web user who “has taken an interest in several well-known privacy software systems.” This includes Tor, a privacy-focused web browser primarily funded by Washington and used around the world by users who wish to remain anonymous on the web. Edward Snowden’s name is not mentioned, suggesting that the leaked documents, which include the source code of the NSA project “Xkeyscore,” come from a different source inside the organization.

It’s the Fourth of July holiday in the U.S., which means flags, fireworks and hot dogs on the barbecue. Lots and lots of hot dogs. Find out how many with today’s By The Numbers installment.

A Texas grill is just one way to have a barbecue. Check our Mondo of 7 barbecue traditions around the world.

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Americans Can Never Unsee The Chinese Balloon — That's The Real Danger

The Chinese spy balloon spotted over the U.S. and shot down on Saturday has suddenly brought once-distant fears into America's backyard, which could set off a kind of "butterfly effect" of a small incident that leads to a much more dangerous showdown.

Photo of the Chinese spy balloon over South Carolina, U.S.

Chinese spy balloon shortly before it was shot down over Surfside Beach South Carolina

Pierre Haski


PARIS — The Chinese spy balloon shot down over the U.S. this past weekend embodies the "Chinese threat" that many Americans already feared. At the same time, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken's decision to cancel a scheduled trip to China is a bad sign for frayed U.S.-Chinese relations.

What should worry us is not the balloon, but what it symbolizes. Shot down on Saturday by an American jet over the Atlantic after it had drifted into U.S. territory, the balloon wasn't a threat in of itself. It's a toy compared to the arsenals held by both countries.

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