Geopolitics

Mandela Memorial, Kiev Cleared, China Hackers

In Soweto's FNB Stadium
In Soweto's FNB Stadium
Worldcrunch

MANDELA MEMORIAL TODAY
Mourners gathered for former South African leader Nelson Mandela's memorial service in rainy Soweto today.
• In his remarks at the memorial, President Barack Obama characterized Mandela as “a giant of history, who moved a nation toward justice, and in the process moved billions around the world.”
• Notably, and in keeping with Mandela's legacy of reconciliation, Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro at the memorial, AP reports.
Click here to see who is attending the historic event and to see which dignitaries were also on hand for the last comparable event, the funeral of Pope John Paul II.
• Reuters has a live feed of the event that is being attended by more than 100 world leaders and other notables.


Photo: Meng Chenguang/Xinhua/ZUMA

POLICE CLEAR KIEV PROTESTERS
The Ukrainian police cleared out barricades to government buildings installed by Kiev protesters early this morning, ousting hundreds of demonstrators in the process. No arrests were made, but reports from news agency Ria Novosti say that 10 people were injured in the clashes, including two policemen. According to the Financial Times, EU Foreign Affairs representative Catherine Ashton is traveling to Kiev today to meet with President Viktor Yanukovych.

TWO FRENCH SOLDIERS KILLED
Two French soldiers were killed in the Central African Republic capital of Bangui, five days after the beginning of their crackdown on armed groups in the city, Le Monde reports. French journalist Nicolas Bertrand reported looting and violent clashes this morning between Christians and Muslims in Bangui, as the city falls deeper into chaos.

CANADA TO CLAIM NORTH POLE
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird announced that the country intends to include the North Pole in its territorial claims in the Arctic seabed, extending Canadian ownership of natural resources in the region as a result, CBC reports.

CHINA HACKED FOREIGN MINISTRIES
A report by a California computer security company suggests that Chinese hackers with links to government authorities hacked into the computers of five European foreign ministries and repeatedly spied on them. The ministries of Czech Republic, Portugal, Bulgaria, Latvia and Hungary were infiltrated thanks to an email inviting the targets to click on a link for naked pictures of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, The New York Times reports.

VERBATIM
South Korean President Park Geun-hye has warned of further divisions with North Korea, as she criticized Kim Jong-un’s “reign of terror.”

Brrrrrrr
NASA has detected the coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth. Guess just how cold it is in East Antarctica?

A NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS
A Chinese man was so tired of shopping with his girlfriend that he jumped from a balcony to his death after she insisted they go to one more store.

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Society

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.

Hollandse-Hoogte/ZUMA

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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