Israeli Confession, Cold War Figure Dies, Fastest Talking Woman

Nine Palestinians, including seven Hamas militants, were killed overnight in air strikes over the Gaza Strip.
Nine Palestinians, including seven Hamas militants, were killed overnight in air strikes over the Gaza Strip.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Israeli news sources report that three of the six suspected Jewish extremists arrested by the Israeli police yesterday have since confessed to murdering Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the 16 year-old Palestinian abducted and believed to have been burned alive last week. Israel's daily Haaretz also quotes Israeli police as saying that they are investigating whether the six suspects are involved in the attempted abduction of a 9 year-old before they allegedly kidnapped Khdeir. The Jerusalem Post meanwhile quotes Israeli Prime Minister as saying he called the family of the teenager to “express my shock, and the shock of all Israeli citizens, at the heinous murder of your son,” before adding that the “murderers will be brought to justice”.

Nine Palestinians, including seven Hamas militants, were killed overnight in air strikes over the Gaza Strip that Israel said were in response to rockets fired into southern Israel. Recent events are also causing political turmoil inside the Israeli government, as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is also leader of far-right party Yisrael Beiteinu, announced the end of his partnership with Netanyahu’s Likud party, pointing at “fundamental disagreements.” The move comes after the two leaders “exchanged verbal blows” over Israel’s response to rocket fire from Gaza, Haaretz explains.

A 15-year-old American boy and cousin to Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was filmed being beaten up by Israeli police officers after a protest has meanwhile been released from custody and placed under house arrest for nine days.

Separatist rebel fighters in Eastern Ukraine are regrouping in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk ahead of an offensive from the government forces, who this weekend regained control of Sloviansk and smaller towns, France 24 reports. A senior journalist at the network warned that the battle will be a tougher challenge for the Ukrainian army, as Donetsk’s “larger population makes it difficult to use air power and artillery without causing civilian casualties and "handing a propaganda victory to the other side".”

Former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, a key figure in the collapse of the Soviet Union, has died at age 86.

From a refugee camp near Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, La Stampa’s Francesco Semprini takes a snapshot of the lives of people displaced by the jihadist offensive that began on June 5: “Ahmed is wearing a Barcelona soccer jersey with Argentine superstar Lionel Messi’s name on the back. Rasheed has Rodrigo Palacio's from Inter Milan, while Samad is sporting the Chelsea shirt of Brazil midfielder Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Junior. While their heroes compete in the World Cup on the other side of the world, these Iraqi children are refugees in their own country after the latest jihadist offensive. Holding onto these players' dreams is a way to try and cling to the very innocence of youth threatened by the upheaval around them.
Read the full article, World Cup Dreaming For Iraqi Children Fleeing Jihadists.

63 women and girls who were abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria managed to escape their captors while they were carrying out another attack during which they killed more than 50 people, AFP reports. Some of the more than 200 schoolgirls who were kidnapped in northeastern Nigeria on April 14 are believed to be among those who escaped, and a local vigilante said they had “made it back home” on Friday.

A new child abuse scandal is threatening the British establishment, after allegations were made that a pedophile ring may have been operating at the heart of the British Parliament between the 1960s and the 1980s, with a whistleblower claiming that up to 40 members of Parliament either knew or took part in child abuse, The Daily Telegraph reports. In an interview Lord Tebbit, a former Margaret Thatcher cabinet minister, said he believed there may have been a cover-up at the time, as more than 100 files related to such allegations were lost or destroyed.


Germany’s “already troubled relationship” with the United States, following last year’s revelations that Angela Merkel’s phone had been monitored by the NSA, is “at risk of deteriorating to a new low,” The New York Times writes, amid accusations that an employee of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency arrested last week has been selling documents to the CIA for the past two years.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi expressed regrets Sunday over the June 23 sentencing of three Al-Jazeera journalists to between 7 and 10 years in prison. Check what he said here.

Meet the world’s fastest talking woman, who can pronounce up to 11 words per second — meaning that she can recite “Three Little Pigs” in just 15 seconds.

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Running of the Bulls in Tafalla, northern Spain

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Здравейте!*

Welcome to Monday, where an apparent coup is underway in Sudan, Colombia's most-wanted drug lord gets caught, and Michael Jordan's rookie sneakers score an auction record. We also focus on a report that the Thai government is abusing the country's centuries-old law to protect the monarchy from criticism (lèse-majesté) to target pro-democracy activists and protesters.

[*Zdraveite - Bulgarian]


• Developing: Sudan leaders arrested amid military coup reports: Soldiers have arrested several members of Sudan's transitional government as well as civilian leaders, and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has reportedly been put under house arrest, in what the information ministry called a military coup. Pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets of the capital city Khartoum where there are reports of gunfire and clashes.

• Colombia's most wanted drug lord to be sent to U.S.: Colombia's most dangerous drug trafficker, known as Otoniel, was caught after a joint army, air force and police operation and faces extradition to the U.S. He led the country's largest criminal gang, and was on the U.S. most wanted list for years.

• Xi speech marks China's UN anniversary: China's President Xi Jinping marked the 50th anniversary of Beijing's entry into the United Nations with a speech calling for greater global cooperation, adding that issues like climate change, terrorism and cyber security needed multilateral solutions. Taiwan was not mentioned.

• German ISIS bride jailed for crimes against humanity: A German court has sentenced a German woman and former member of the Islamic State to 10 years in prison for letting a 5-year-old Yazidi enslaved girl die of thirst in Iraq. The case is one of the world's first trials to prosecute a war crime against the Yazidis.

• COVID update: The Beijing marathon scheduled next weekend has been postponed until further notice as China seeks to stamp out Delta variant outbreak and return to zero cases ahead of the Winter Olympics next February. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases in Eastern Europe have surpassed the 20 million mark as the region fights against its worst outbreak since the pandemic started and vaccination efforts lag.

Goodbye, Gunther: U.S. actor James Michael Tyler, best known for his role as the barista Gunther on the TV show Friends, has died at 59 of prostate cancer.

• Sneakers record: A pair of Michael Jordan's white-and-red Nike shoes, which he wore during his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls in 1984, sold for $1.47 million — a new record price for sneakers at auction.


"The end of a boss," titles Colombian daily El Espectador, reporting on the arrest of drug lord Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, who had led Colombia's largest criminal gang and had been on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's most wanted list for years. He was captured in a raid and will be extradited to the U.S.



A Georgia man is being prosecuted for wire fraud after spending most of his business's COVID relief loan to buy one Pokémon trading card for $57,789.


How Thailand's "Lèse-Majesté" law is used to stifle all protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

👑 Thailand's Criminal Code "Lèse-Majesté" Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family. But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

🚨 The recent report "Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand," documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations." The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

💻 The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them. Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind.

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"Children are going to die. People are going to starve."

— The United Nations warns that Afghanistan verges on a "total breakdown" as millions of Afghans, including children, could die of starvation unless urgent action is taken by the international community. The agency calls for the release of frozen assets to avoid economic and social collapse, despite concerns over the Taliban government. A recent report said that about 97% of Afghanistan's population may sink below the poverty line, and World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley warned that more than half of Afghanistan's population of 39 million were facing acute food insecurity and "marching to starvation" in comparison to 14 million two months ago.


Dutch cities have been secretly probing mosques since 2013

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talked to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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

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