UN INVITES IRAN TO GENEVA 2, SYRIAN OPPOSITION THREATENS BOYCOTT
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has invited Iran to attend the Geneva 2 peace conference on Syria, which is due to begin Wednesday. Tehran has accepted the invitation but without any pre-conditions, Xinhua reports.
Ban Ki-moon’s announcement led Syria’s main opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, to threaten a conference boycott, France24 reports. The National Coalition had only confirmed its presence at Geneva on Saturday, after suggesting initially that it would not attend.
Meanwhile, in an interview with AFP, President Bashar al-Assad dismissed the idea that opposition leaders could figure into a transition government as “a good joke.” Read why here.
SERIES OF BAGHDAD EXPLOSIONS KILL DOZENS
At least 24 people died and another 58 were injured in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad after it was hit by half a dozen explosions, Reuters reports.
YANUKOVYCH TO NEGOTIATE WITH PRO-EU OPPOSITION
Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych has agreed to negotiate with representatives of pro-EU protesters in Kiev and with opposition leaders after yesterday’s violent clashes in the capital, UPI reports. According to Interfax, more than 20 people have been arrested for their suspected involvement in the rioting, which left over 200 police officers and protesters injured. The White House suggested it could impose sanctions on Ukraine for using violence against the demonstrators, Ria Novosti reports.
For more on the subject, we offer this Le Monde/Worldcrunch piece: What Failure In Ukraine Reveals About European Weakness.
SUICIDE BOMB HITS NORTHERN PAKISTAN
A suicide bomber in the northern Pakistani city of Rawalpindi killed at least 14 people, including six soldiers, just one day after 20 soldiers died in another explosion, the BBC reports. The group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan have claimed responsibility for the two attacks.
IRAN STARTS CURBING NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Tehran has started suspending its 20% uranium enrichment program as part of the six-month deal struck in November 2013, news agency IRNA quotes an official from the country’s Atomic Energy Organization as saying. The curb should be accompanied by the lifting of some sanctions by the European Union and the United States, allowing Iran to start exporting oil again.
CHINA ECONOMIC GROWTH LOSING PACE
The Chinese economy grew 7.7% in the last quarter of 2013 over the previous year, as expectations for 2014 suggest growth will reach its slowest pace since 1990, Financial Times reports.
BY THE NUMBERS
Global inequality is so extreme that the combined wealth of the 85 richest people is equal to what the poorest half of the world's population own put together, according to a new report from the development charity Oxfam.
A 3-year-old boy was killed in a Mafia vendetta act in Southern Italy before being torched in a car.
One of world’s leading conductors, Italian Claudio Abbado, has died at age 80.
MUSIC FOR (VINTAGE) GEEKS
If you’re a Star Wars fan who likes old tech, you’ll love this new version of “The expand=1] Imperial March,” made with floppy drives.
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]
🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• 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.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
"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.
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
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.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
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.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
"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.
🕌 🔍 IN OTHER NEWS
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
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- Colombia, How War Spreads 'Cultural Violence' Into Daily Life ... ›
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- In China, How People Are Pushing Back On Surveillance State ... ›
- Where Are The Doses? How U.S. And Europe Vaccine Pledges ... ›
- Hong Kong's International Food Scene Gets Political - Worldcrunch ›
- Reading Rumi In Kabul: A Persian Poet's Lesson For Radical Islam ... ›
- Art For All? You Can Now Own Micro-Parts Of Basquiat Or Banksy ... ›