Ukraine On NATO's Mind, Tesla "Gigafactory," No Visa For Dalai Lama

Cameron and Obama together penned a op-ed for Thursday's edition of "The Times" about evolving global challenges.
Cameron and Obama together penned a op-ed for Thursday's edition of "The Times" about evolving global challenges.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Western and NATO leaders are meeting in Newport, Wales, for what the military alliance’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen described as “one of the most important summits in the history of our alliance” because of Russia’s incursion in Ukraine. Calling on Moscow to “stop the flow of weapons and fighters” into eastern Ukraine, Rasmussen once again accused Russia of “attacking” its neighbor.

At the summit, NATO members are expected to approve the creation of “high-readiness military units” that will cost “several hundred million euros” per year, a NATO general told AFP, saying that it was a worthy “investment.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday outlined a seven-point plan for peace in Ukraine, which Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk later dismissed as a trap, opting instead for the building of a wall on the border, The Guardian reports. In the meantime, France announced it would halt the planned delivery of warships to Moscow amid increasing pressure from its allies not to fulfill the $1.6 billion contract.

Also high on the agenda at the NATO summit is the threat of ISIS, as President Barack Obama seeks to build a broad anti-jihadist coalition. The meeting comes after reportsfrom Matthew Olsen, a senior U.S. counter-terrorism official, that the jihadist group now controls a territory equivalent in size to the UK, has 10,000 fighters and has made $1 million a day from oil sales, smuggling and ransoms.

“Those who believe in stepping back and adopting an isolationist approach misunderstand the nature of security in the 21st century," British Prime Minister David Cameron and Obama wrote in a joint column published in The Times. Read more here.

The New York Times has posted a short film telling the story of Ali Hussein Kadhim, an Iraqi army recruit who survived an ISIS massacre in Tikrit in June. The film comes two days after Human Rights Watch reported that as many as 770 Iraqi soldiers have been executed there, three times more than previously estimated.

Meanwhile, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced in an online video the formation of a new branch in the “Indian subcontinent,” where it vowed to “raise the flag of jihad.” Indian authorities ordered several states to be on an increased state of alert, Reuters reports.

Tesla Motors has chosen Nevada as the location for what it calls its “gigafactory,” where the company hopes to produce enough batteries to power 500,000 cars every year by the end of the decade, AP reports. The $5 billion facility slated to employ 6,500 people will be located outside Reno.

In a desperate attempt to put an end to months of civil war, South Sudanese rights groups have urged the international community to set up an arms embargo for the country, AFP reports. With thousands dead and more than 1.8 million people displaced, the report says that both sides have received weapons from Sudan while China is believed to have provided the South Sudanese government with $38 million worth of weapons.


Targeting the office of the country’s spy agency and a police compound, the Afghanistan Taliban carried out its biggest attack in recent weeks, detonating two suicide truck bombs in the central city of Ghazni. At least 18 people died and some 150 were injured, Reuters reports. The attacks come as the political deadlock between the two presidential candidates continues, with the sides unable to agree on the formation of a national government.

Andrew Madoff, the last surviving son of convicted conman Bernard Madoff who helped blow the whistle on his father's massive Ponzi scheme, has died of lymphoma at 48.

The Dalai Lama has been forced to cancel a visit to South Africa after he was denied a visa for the third time in the last five years, The Cape Times reports. The Tibetan spiritual leader was invited to Cape Town for the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates next month, and other guests have threatened not to attend if the Dalai Lama is not permitted in the country. According to news website Eyewitness News, South Africa’s close relationship with China is the main reason why the Dalai Lama was denied a visa.

For lovers of Paris and abandoned railways, we point you to this collection of stunning pictures from the French capital.

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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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