Obama's ISIS strategy, Pistorius verdict, Drowsy thief

Catalan separatists in Barcelona
Catalan separatists in Barcelona

Sept. 11, 2014

On the eve of today’s 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks, President Barack Obama vowed to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Mideast’s ISIS terror group, also known as ISIL. Saying he had authorized air strikes against the jihadist group in Syria and the deployment of 475 more military advisers to Iraq, he outlined a $500 million plan to train and arm “moderate” Syrian rebels in a base in Saudi Arabia.

“We will degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy,” Obama said during the televised speech to the nation last night. Read more here.

Although the president was careful to stress that this would not be a ground war like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, The New York Times notes that his decision extends the “legacy of war,” that he may “pass his successor a volatile and incomplete war, much as his predecessor left one for him.”

Haaretz columnist Chemi Shalev says that yesterday’s speech showed Obama is not “George Bush the cowboy” but that “he also made clear, without admitting as much even to himself, that he is no longer the old Obama either.”

South African Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled this morning that paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius is not guilty of premeditated murder in the killing of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine Day’s in 2013, citing a lack of evidence. She also appeared to rule out second-degree murder, explaining that he could not have “reasonably foreseen” that the shot fired through the toilet door would kill the victim. The full verdict hasn’t been read yet, but BBC correspondent Andrew Harding wrote on Twitter that a verdict of culpable homicide is “likely.” Follow CNN’s blog for live updates.

More than half of Chinese people think their country could go to war with Japan in the future, a poll by Genron NPO and China Daily shows. Read more here.

The Yemeni government and the Shia Muslim Houthi rebels have reached an agreement, Reuters reports, ending weeks of bloody protests in the capital of Sanaa. As part of the deal, a new government will be formed within 48 hours. This comes just days after the crisis escalated dramatically when hundreds of rebels tried to storm the government headquarters.


Richard Kiel, the 7-foot-tall actor best-known for his role as the (literally) steel-toothed villain Jaws in James Bond films, has died at the age of 74. Kiel had been admitted to a hospital in Fresno, California, though the cause of death was not immediately known.

The ozone layer that protects the earth from cancer-causing ultraviolet rays is showing its first signs of thickening in years, according to a UN report. Scientists say that the ozone hole that appears every year over Antarctica has stopped growing bigger and will start shrinking in a decade. Read more from Reuters.

Almost a month after she attacked a mushroom forager in the Italian mountains of Trentino while protecting her 8-month-old cubs, Daniza the bear is dead. She was captured by a task force of rangers that had been deployed to capture her, but she did not survive the anesthesia she was given. Read more about Daniza’s ordeal from Worldcrunch’s Zoo’d blog.

Royal Bank of Scotland has announced plans to relocate its head office to London if voters support Scottish independence in next week’s election. It’s a move that Lloyds Bank could also imitate, the BBC reports. The Times explains that the Scottish referendum is inspiring separatist movements around the world.

After all, a life of crime can be really exhausting.

Crunched by Marc Alves.

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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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