Kerry In Baghdad, Pesticides And Autism, Ugliest Dog

Members of FIFA's Executive Committee secretly doubled their own salaries, it was revealed Sunday.
Members of FIFA's Executive Committee secretly doubled their own salaries, it was revealed Sunday.

Monday, June 23, 2014

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Baghdad early this morning and is expected to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as well as Sunni and Kurdish leaders to push for a coalition government to fight ISIS, The New York Times reports. The jihadist group, meanwhile, continues its offensive and took control yesterday of border crossings into Syria and Jordan. This came amid Washington Post reports of a “psychological collapse” among Iraq soldiers, who are facing “an enemy hardened by years of fighting in Syria and in possession of more advanced weaponry.”

Iranian news agency FARS published what it claims is an official document showing that Qatar is recruiting jihadist fighters in Libya to dispatch them to Iraq “by next week.” The report also quotes Iraqi media sources as saying that some ISIS fighters receive a monthly salary of $700 from Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Officials in the autonomous Iraq region of Kurdistan rejected claims published by Reuters that it had delivered one million barrels of oil to Israel.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski criticized his country's alliance with the U.S. during a private conversation that was leaked Sunday by the Polish magazine Wprost. He said his country's alliance with the U.S. was “not worth anything,” and even compared it to oral sex.

The Israeli military launched air strikes on nine Syrian army targets in Golan Heights, a Syrian territory occupied by Israel, in retaliation for the death of an Israeli teenager that the army claimed was “an unprovoked act of aggression against Israel,” AFP reports. But according to the BBC, it’s unclear whether the initial attack was committed by Syrian rebels or government troops. In an alarming report published this morning, the UK-based organization Human Rights Watch says that rebel groups are recruiting teenagers as young as 15 to fight against the Syrian army, sometimes luring them with the false promise of education.

Members of FIFA's Executive Committee secretly doubled their own salaries, the Sunday Times reveals, in response to new ethics rules banning their six-digit World Cup bonuses. Documents leaked to the British newspaper reportedly show that the 25 members on the Executive Committee — or "Exco" — saw their $100,000 salaries rise to $200,000 this year, with the money being funneled via Swiss banks.

Thirty-seven Palestinians were arrested overnight in the West Bank, taking the total number of recent detainees to 361 as the search for three abducted Israeli students enters its 11th day. Two young Palestinians were killed Sunday in what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as “self-defense activities,” Haaretz reports. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Netanyahu also said Israel would publish “unequivocal proof” that Hamas is responsible for the kidnappings. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had earlier said there was no “concrete evidence” the students had been abducted.

As Die Welt"s Torsten Krauel writes, the online world's big data and nanosecond velocity means we are losing control of the machines we've built ourselves. How, the writer asks, can we avoid becoming victims of our own intelligence? “Time and space have always meant that we could be forewarned, have some time to figure out a reaction even if it was just to protect ourselves,” Krauel writes. “That’s over. Now people can no longer be sure if the Internet is obeying humans or instead computers that have simply come to know what emotional stimuli are. The situation is claustrophobic.”
Read the full article here, A.I. And Us: How The Internet Spawned Our Own Worst Enemy.

The week-long ceasefire declared by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is under increasingly heavy strain, as the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic has rejected the truce. There were reports of violence for a second night in eastern parts of the country. At separate commemorations of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, Poroshenko and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin both underlined the importance of peace, although this came after Moscow put troops in Central Russia on “full combat alert” ahead of a one-week drill.


An Egyptian court sentenced two journalists from Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera to seven years in jail and several others to 10 years after finding them guilty of supporting the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood and reporting false news. In a press release, the network’s managing director said that the decision “defies logic, sense and any semblance of justice,” accusing the court of “numerous irregularities in addition to the lack of evidence.”

A new California study found that pregnant women who live near farms where pesticides are used had a two-thirds higher risk of having children with autism. Read more from AFP.

Ghana’s soccer authorities allowed its national team to play in games that third parties were prepared to rig in exchange for a substantial sum of money, a six-month investigation by The Daily Telegraph and Channel 4 revealed. Christopher Forsythe, a registered FIFA agent who is said to be part of the scheme, told the undercover journalists that match fixing was “everywhere.” The revelations are likely to increase pressure on Ghana, whose team is currently playing in Brazil, as well as on soccer’s FIFA governing body amid suspicions of corruption in its decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup.

The world has a new “ugliest dog.” Meet Peanut.

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Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

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.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk 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.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

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.

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