UKRAINE OKs HOSTING JOINT DRILLS WITH NATO
The Ukrainian Parliament approved this morning a decision from acting President Oleksandr Turchynov to hold joint military drills with NATO countries later this year, Interfax reports. The decision, described by acting Defense Minister Mykhailo Koval as “a good opportunity” to develop Ukraine’s armed forces, is likely to anger Moscow, as it will “put U.S. troops in direct proximity to Russian forces” in Crimea, AFP explains.
This comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a “partial withdrawal” of Russian troops posted near the Ukrainian border and as NATO foreign ministers are gathering in Brussels. The 28 representatives are expected to “decide new steps to reinforce eastern European countries, and how to bolster Ukraine's armed forces,” Reuters reports.
Meanwhile, the crackdown on ultranationalist group Right Sector continues in Kiev after one of its members wounded three people in a shooting spree yesterday, including Kiev’s Deputy Mayor Bogdan Dubas. According to AP, acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced the group had surrendered its weapons and had left a hotel in central Kiev, where they had established their headquarters.
KERRY MEETS NETANYAHU IN BID TO SAVE PEACE TALKS
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met again this morning, after a three-hour long discussion yesterday, as Kerry is working to prevent peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis from collapsing. According to Haaretz, Kerry did not meet with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and was due to fly directly to Brussels for the NATO meeting. The U.S.-sponsored talks are on the brink of collapse after Israel failed to release the last group of Palestinian prisoners Saturday, and Washington is hoping to convince Tel Aviv to comply with the agreement by releasing Jonathan Pollard, a former Navy intelligence analyst currently serving a life sentence for spying for Israel.
SIX DEAD IN NAIROBI BLASTS
At least six people were killed and some 25 wounded in a series of explosions in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi last night, Al Jazeera reports. The blasts targeted shops in a predominantly Somali suburb of the city. No group has claimed responsibility for the explosions, although Islamist organization al-Shabab has carried out such attacks in the past, including that of the Westgate shopping mall in September 2013.
CIA LIED ABOUT INTERROGATION PROGRAM
A report by the Senate Intelligence Committee shows that the CIA lied to the government and the public about aspects and the extent of its post-9/11 “interrogation program,” which many describe as involving torture, The Washington Post reports. Although the 6,300-page report is classified, unnamed U.S. officials told the newspaper that “millions of records make clear that the CIA’s ability to obtain the most valuable intelligence against al-Qaeda — including tips that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011 — had little, if anything, to do with “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
UNMANNED DRONE CRASHES ON S. KOREA BORDER ISLAND
An unidentified drone thought to belong to North Korea was recovered after it crashed on one of South Korea’s border islands, news agency Yonhap quotes a military source as saying. Military officials said a probe was underway to find the origin of the unmanned aircraft, whose recovery came amid exchanges of artillery fire between the two countries.
MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD
“Goodnight Malaysian three seven zero.” — the “new” final words from missing flight MH370, according to the transcript of conversations between the cockpit and air traffic control that were released Tuesday by Malaysia’s Transport Ministry.
“The message you’ve sent me, I’ve received it personally.” — French President Francois Hollande Monday night during a televised appearance following his party’s election defeats around the country.
Writing in Munich daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, Heribert Prantl poses some uncomfortable questions about the aggressive prosecution of the man who had been hoarding artwork looted by the Nazis: “The pictures are silent witnesses of Nazi crimes, and prompt renewed discussion of those crimes. When trying to analyze the legal ownership of these pictures, we discover how difficult it is for the heirs of Nazi victims to get back the belongings wrongfully taken from their grandparents. The law books aren’t up to handling the repair of acts of political perversion…”
Read the full article: Why Germany's Nazi Art Seizure Was Wrong.
Lorenzo Semple Jr., creator of the popular Batman TV series that debuted in 1966 and was ultimately broadcast around the world, has died at age 91.
Meanwhile, we bid farewell to eight global notables who died in March.
IN OTHER HEADLINES
The Guardian reports that Scotland will switch to driving on the right if the country votes for independence from the UK.
A draft EU blacklist that will be implemented in case of further escalation in Ukraine is said to include Angela Merkel’s biggest nightmare: Vladimir Putin’s beloved labrador.
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.
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.
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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