"Pure Evil" Of ISIS, Japan In Recession, Hip Hop Heals

Thousands took part in Sunday's 19th annual Gay Pride parade on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach.
Thousands took part in Sunday's 19th annual Gay Pride parade on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach.

Monday, November 17, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed yesterday the killing of American aid worker Peter Kassig, who was executed by ISIS, and described it as an act of “pure evil,” The New York Times reports.

A video released by the terrorist organization shows Kassig’s beheaded body as well as the beheading of 18 Syrian army soldiers, and it comes after a weeklong series of setbacks. According to The Guardian, ISIS “is determined to show that it plays a long game.” Speaking to British newspaper The Independent, a senior Kurdish leader claimed that ISIS has an army of at least 200,000 fighters, a number the CIA has underestimated.

“I went out … trying to alleviate suffering and helping those in need,” Kassig wrote to his parents in his last letter to them.

Thousands took part in Sunday's 19th annual Gay Pride parade on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach.

World leaders at the G20 summit in Australia agreed yesterday to focus on boosting economic growth by creating jobs and tackling tax evasion. They vowed to implement a package of reforms that will reportedly add an extra 2.1% to the global economy in five years, ABC quoted Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott as saying. The summit was also dominated by talks on security and climate change, with leaders pledging to support energy efficiency and sustainable development. After the summit, Australia and China signed a landmark free trade agreement that follows 10 years of tough negotiations, Reutersreports.

The summit was at times overshadowed by the Ukrainian crisis and Russian President Vladimir Putin. CNN reported that Putin “had been a verbal punching bag for many of the G20 leaders” and that he left Brisbane as soon as possible.

A beaver fur hat worn by Napoleon Bonaparte during the Battle of Marengo in 1800 sold at auction Sunday for 1.884 million euros ($2.3 million).

Japan, the world’s third-largest economy and the most indebted of developed nations, announced that its economy had contracted by 1.6% from last year during the third quarter, plunging the country into recession following a 7.3% contraction in the previous quarter, Bloomberg reports. Japanese stocks reacted badly to the news, suffering their biggest daily dropsince August. A significant sales tax hike in April “completely destroyed Japan’s economy,” according to an analyst, and today’s news will likely see Prime Minister Shinzo Abe postpone a new increase planned for October 2015.

Writing in The Guardian after the weekend’s G20 summit, British Prime Minister David Cameron expresses fears that the eurozone is also “teetering on the brink” of a third recession. “Six years on from the financial crash that brought the world to its knees, red warning lights are once again flashing on the dashboard of the global economy,” he writes.

As Die Welt’s Valentin Frimmer reports, a new German dating caters exclusively to people with disabilities. “Specialized dating services like Schatzkiste are a good way to start the search for a partner, says Karl Finke, the state official in charge of issues relating to disabled citizens in the state of Lower Saxony. ‘I am convinced that people with disabilities have greater problems searching for and choosing a partner,’ he says. He believes that specialized dating agencies can help defuse anxieties.”
Read the full article, Love Accessibly.

Michel Kafando, who AFP describes as a “career diplomat,” has been chosen as Burkina Faso’s interim president, just days after military, political and civilian leaders agreed on a transition framework towards civilian rule in the West African country. Speaking after his appointment, the 72-year-old said becoming interim president was “more than an honor, a formidable responsibility” and assured citizens he was aware of the “enormity of the task” ahead of him, news website Le Faso reports. Kafando is now expected to name a prime minister who will lead a transitional government until elections are held next year.


Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced the suspension of a new round of peace talks in the Cuban capital of Havana with the FARC rebel group, after an army general and two local officials were abducted, newspaper El Espectador reports. After five decades of intense fighting, which left 220,000 people dead, FARC and the Colombian government initiated talks two years ago, though a long-term ceasefire could never be reached.

Facebook is secretly working on a new website called “Facebook at Work” where users will be able to create professional profiles separated from their personal ones and collaborate with colleagues on documents. The move is aimed at competing directly with both LinkedIn and Google Drive, the Financial Times reports.

A new Cambridge University study shows that listening to hip hop could be a bona fide psychological help for people suffering from depression and other mental illnesses. So here’s a carefully selected list of the world’s finest hip hop tunes to beat the Monday blues.

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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

Are you more Chicago Bulls or running of the bulls? Let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!!

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