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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.

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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 fromAFP.

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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The Pope's Bronchitis Can't Hide What Truly Ails The Church — Or Whispers Of Succession

It is not only the health of the Pope that worries the Holy See. From the collapse of vocations to the conservative wind in the USA, there are many ills to face.

 Pope Francis reaches over to tough the hands of devotees during his  General Audience at the Vatican.​

November 29, 2023: Pope Francis during his wednesday General Audience at the Vatican.

Evandro Inetti/ZUMA
Gianluigi Nuzzi

ROME — "How am I? I'm fine... I'm still alive, you know? See, I'm not dead!"

With a dose of irony and sarcasm, Pope Francis addressed those who'd paid him a visit this past week as he battled a new lung inflammation, and the antibiotic cycles and extra rest he still must stick with on strict doctors' orders.

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The Pope is dealing with a sensitive respiratory system; the distressed tracheo-bronchial tree can cause asthmatic reactions, with the breathlessness in his speech being the most obvious symptom. Tired eyes and dark circles mark his swollen face. A sense of unease and bewilderment pervades and only diminishes when the doctors restate their optimism about his general state of wellness.

"The pope's ailments? Nothing compared to the health of the Church," quips a priest very close to the Holy Father. "The Church is much worse off, marked by chronic ailments and seasonal illnesses."

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