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ISIS Video Confirmed, Ukraine Ceasefire Hopes, Hippo On Thames

Florentijn Hofman's "HippopoThames"
Florentijn Hofman's "HippopoThames"

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The U.S. Intelligence Community has authenticated the video published yesterday by ISIS which purported to show the beheading of another journalist, Steven Sotloff of dual American-Israeli citizenship, two weeks after similar footage of James Foley was released, The New York Times reports. Speaking from Estonia where he will hold security talks with Baltic countries over the Ukraine-Russia crisis, Barack Obama condemned the video as a “horrific act of violence.” “We will not be intimidated,” he said before vowing that “justice will be served.” Yesterday, Obama ordered the deployment of 350 extra troops in Iraq to protect the embassy in Baghdad.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is holding an emergency meeting to decide on what course to follow after a British hostage was threatened at the end of the Sotloff video.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says the executions of Foley and Sotloff are “unlikely to be the last” and warns of an “accelerated risk.”

Writing in The New York Times, two members of the European Council on Foreign Relations argue that the key to defeat ISIS lies in an alliance with Bashar al-Assad, while demanding that Iran and other allies to the Syrian President push him to accept “real power-sharing.”

The possibility of a ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine appears closer than ever before since the beginning of the crisis after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had agreed by phone on a “permanent ceasefire in the Donbass region,” the BBC reports. Minutes after the report, the Kremlin watered down Poroshenko’s statement and explained that “Russia cannot physically agree on a ceasefire because it isn’t a party in the conflict.” Nonetheless RTreports that Putin’s spokesman indicated that the two leaders had “largely agreed” on steps towards an end to the violence in Eastern Ukraine.

A leader of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic said that the decision of a ceasefire was taken without them and denounced what he sees as “some sort of a game by Kiev,” Ria Novosti reports. Guardian journalist Alec Luhn also expressed doubt on the feasibility of a ceasefire, writing on Twitter that “Rebels in Donetsk say they don't think all Ukrainians will follow it.”

Russian investigators confirmed this morning the death of photojournalist Andrei Stenin, who had been missing since early August. According to the report, the car he was traveling in came under fire amid a Ukrainian army attack on pro-Russian rebels near Donetsk.

As Ebola keeps spreading in West Africa, humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders warned yesterday that “the world is losing the battle to contain it” as the response offered so far has been “too little, too late,” The Washington Post reports. The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also sounded the alarm and said that the “window of opportunity” to bring the epidemic under control was closing. At least 3,069 people have already been infected and more than 1,500 have died. This comes amid good news from London, where the first British patient to contract Ebola has been discharged from hospital after making a full recovery. He was treated with the experimental drug ZMapp, which has shown positive results on monkeys. Read more from Bloomberg.

In Cairo-based Madr Masr, writer Moritz Mihatsch offers some hard thinking about the reach of ISIS, arguing that the Islamist group presents a challenge to the most basic way the world has been organized for hundreds of years. “While all these developments were mere modifications of the Westphalian system, the Islamic State wants to eliminate the system completely. Reflected in its name change from the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" to simply "Islamic State," the movement does not aim to establish governance within specific borders, but rejects borders as such.”
Read the full article: A Post-Westphalian Caliphate? Deconstructing ISIS Ambitions.

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Israel is about to receive its fourth German-built Dolphin-class submarine, which Arutz Sheva describes as a “state-of-the-art vessel” that can carry nuclear warheads. Two more submarines are on the way, with the sixth expected to be delivered in 2017. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Israel is “lobbying world powers anew” ahead of the next round of talks on Iran’s nuclear capabilities later this month. Israel fears that Tehran will use its nuclear programs for weapons and opposes the negotiations. The Minister for strategic affairs Yuval Steinitz said he would go to Washington with a delegation next week.

Japan announced its intention to resume the hunt of minke whales in the Antarctic Ocean next year, despite an order from the UN International Court of Justice banning such activities in the area, AFP reports. According to an official from the Japan Fisheries Agency, whaling ships will collect "data necessary to calculate the number of whale catch allowed.” Minke whales are believed to be more numerous in the Antarctic than other whales, which have also been targeted by Japan in the past.

Valérie Trierweiler, jilted ex-companion of French President Francois Hollande, has published a tell-almost-all memoir about their relationship.

This September marks a tipping point for the changing face of American schools.

Florentijn Hofman, the Dutch artist behind the giant rubber duck that sailed down the Thames in 2012, has done it again, unveiling a 21-meter-long hippo float as part of London's Totally Thames festival.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Palestinian Olive Trees Are Also Under Israeli Occupation — And That's Not A Joke

In the West Bank, a quieter form of oppression has been plaguing Palestinians for a long time. Their olive groves are surrounded by soldiers, and it's forbidden to harvest the olives – this economic and social violence has gotten far worse since Oct. 7.

A Palestinian woman holds olives in her hands

In a file photo, Um Ahmed, 74, collects olives in the village of Sarra on the southwest of the West Bank city of Nablus.

Mohammed Turabi/ZUMA
Francesca Mannocchi

HEBRON – It was after Friday prayers on October 13th of last year, and Zakaria al-Arda was walking along the road that crosses his property's hillside to return home – but he never made it.

A settler from Havat Ma'on — an outpost bordering Al-Tuwani that the United Nations International Law and Israeli law considers illegal — descended from the hill with his rifle in hand.

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After kicking al-Arda, who tried to defend himself, the settler shot him in the abdomen. The bullet pierced through his stomach, a few centimeters below the lungs. Since then, al-Arda has been in the hospital in intensive care. A video of those moments clearly shows that neither al-Arda nor the other worshippers leaving the mosque were carrying any weapons.

The victim's cousin, Hafez Hureini, still lives in the town of Al-Tuwani. He is a farmer, and their house on the slope of the town is surrounded by olive trees — and Israeli soldiers. On the pine tree at the edge of his property, settlers have planted an Israeli flag. Today, Hafez lives, like everyone else, as an occupied individual.

He cannot work in his greenhouse, cannot sow his fields, and cannot harvest the olives from his precious olive trees.

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