Newsweek – Five days before New Zealand’s general election, a group containing some of the world’s most prominent whistleblowers launched an attack on Prime Minister John Key, at a panel event, branded the “Moment of Truth”, in Auckland today.
The three-hour event was headed by Kim Dotcom, born Kim Schmitz, an internet entrepreneur most famous for setting up file-sharing site MegaUpload, and founder of New Zealand’s Internet Party, an organisation which advocates for less surveillance, copyright reform and cheaper internet.
Dotcom, along with journalist Glenn Greenwald, Julian Assange of Wikileaks, and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who was billed as a ‘surprise guest’, expounded on revelations that the New Zealand government worked to implement a mass surveillance system against its citizens. Owing to ongoing extradition requests, Snowden and Assange both appeared via videolink.
Most of the discussion focused on allegations of unlawful monitoring. Snowden opened his speech with a claim that the NSA was undertaking mass surveillance programs against New Zealanders, and vouched for the existence of at least two NSA facilities in the country that would be known to John Key. Members of the panel also drew attention to Dotcom’s particular situation.
“We share the same prosecutor, so I understand what is going on there, on a very personal level,” Julian Assange said of the entrepreneur.
“[The United States government] is trying to apply US law in as many countries as possible, applying their law in New Zealand to coerce and pluck out people to other states.”
“When you are able to control their police forces you have succeeded in annexing that country,” Assange added.
Yet the planned showpiece of the event was conspicuous in its absence. Dotcom had told the New Zealand Herald that he would be presenting “absolutely concrete” proof of Key’s collaboration with American security forces to the Auckland audience. However, the evidence never materialised.
Daniel Pipes NRO – In a televised address on how to address the Islamic State this evening, President Barack Obama declared the organization variously known as ISIS or ISIL to be “not Islamic.”
In making this preposterous claim, Obama joins his two immediate predecessors in pronouncing on what is not Islamic. Bill Clinton called the Taliban treatment of women and children “a terrible perversion of Islam.” George W. Bush deemed that 9/11 and other acts of violence against innocents “violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith.”
None of the three has any basis for such assertions. To state the obvious: As non-Muslims and politicians, rather than Muslims and scholars, they are in no position to declare what is Islamic and what is not. As Bernard Lewis, a leading American authority of Islam, notes: “It is surely presumptuous for those who are not Muslims to say what is orthodox and what is heretical in Islam.”
Indeed, Obama compounds his predecessors’ errors and goes further: Clinton and Bush merely described certain actions (treatment of women and children, acts of violence against innocents) as un-Islamic, but Obama has dared to declare an entire organization (and quasi-state) to be “not Islamic.”
The only good thing about this idiocy? At least it’s better than the formulation by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (known as CAIR) which has the nerve to call the Islamic State “anti-Islamic.”
In the end, though, neither U.S. presidents nor Islamist apologists fool people. Anyone with eyes and ears realizes that the Islamic State, like the Taliban and al-Qaeda before it, is 100 percent Islamic. And most Westerners, as indicated by detailed polling in Europe, do have eyes and ears. Over time, they are increasingly relying on common sense to conclude that the group is indeed profoundly Islamic.
New York Times – If you had told someone in 2012 that in just two years the eurozone would remain bonded together but the United Kingdom might not, they would have thought you insane. But here we are.
It’s been a good three centuries, but now Scotland may want out of the United Kingdom.
The stakes are enormous for Scotland, and quite high for the rest of Britain. But the debate over Scottish independence also sheds important light on how debates over the nature of the state that are as old as Hobbes and Locke apply in a modern world of instant communication and cryptocurrency.
The latest polling on the referendum, to be held Sept. 18, points to a narrow edge for Scots who wish to pull out of the state that they have been part of since 1707 and go it as a nation of their own. Previous polls, by contrast, had given the edge to those who wish for Scotland to remain part of Britain. Both betting markets and forecasting groups are now putting the odds that Scotland will pull away and form its own state at something like 30 percent.
What’s all the more remarkable about this possible secession is that major, specific grievances over public policy between Scotland and the rest of Britain are hard to identify. This isn’t like the Southern chunk of the United States seceding in 1860 because it was committed to slavery and the North was against it.
Sure, the pro-independence leaders make some promises about improving social welfare benefits like improved public child care for young children. But that doesn’t square particularly well with the fact that Scotland has been a net drain on the rest of British taxpayers for the last generation; it has received greater benefits than it has paid in taxes. And whatever long-term arrangements are reached over thorny issues like oil rights, divvying up public debt and currency arrangements between the Independent Scotland and the “rump U.K.,” as British commentators have been calling the possible post-secession nation, there is sure to be a heavy transition cost and damage to commerce in the near term.
Many Scots feel as if they have more to gain from governing alongside people who look like them and talk like them than they have to lose from no longer being part of a bigger, more powerful nation. A video posted by the pro-independence campaign captures a bit of this. Amid soft-focus images of beautiful Scottish landscapes and charming-looking Scots going about their day, a woman holding flowers says: “Independence. It’s what we all want in our lives. So why shouldn’t our country be independent too?”
One could point out that Britain as it exists today is the very model of a liberal democracy, that Scots are amply represented in Parliament, and that they have a great deal of control over day-to-day governance within their borders. The government has offered to expand those rights of local control over taxes and public administration if Scotland sticks with Britain. But it may not be enough.
That’s where these bigger questions of what makes a modern state come into play.
Reuters – Swapping cigarettes and chewing gum, the teenage girls outside Rotherham’s Centenary Indoor Market are not engrossed in the conversations students should be having on the first day of term.
Instead of timetables and summer gossip, theirs is a new school year dominated by revelations that as many as 1,400 children in this northern English town were sexually abused by gangs of predominantly Asian men over a 16-year period.
An independent report last week exposed the scale and graphic nature of the crimes and raised difficult questions about whether timidity about confronting the racial aspects of the abuse had prompted authorities to turn a blind eye.
Some of the victims, mainly white girls in social care homes, were as young as 11 and were plied with drugs and alcohol before being trafficked to cities across northern England and gang-raped by groups of men, predominately of Pakistani heritage, the report said.
Those who tried to speak out were threatened with guns and made to watch brutal gang rapes. Their abusers said they would be next if they told anyone. One girl was doused with petrol, her rapist threatening to set her alight.
The report added that senior managers in social care “underplayed” the problem while police regarded many victims with contempt.
“The council motto is ‘Where everybody matters,'” one girl outside the market, a 16-year-old sports and public services student who didn’t want to be named, told Reuters.
“But them there girls didn’t matter. People like us, we don’t matter.”
On a newsstand across the street, the front page of the Rother Advertiser newspaper calls for the resignation of council members and police officials.
“Rotherham is in disgrace,” the editor writes in his paper’s leading article. “It is this week the most shameful town in Britain.”
Rotherham council leader, Roger Stone, resigned following the report’s publication and South Yorkshire Police have commissioned an independent investigation into their handling of the scandal.
Last week’s report said misplaced racial sensitivities perpetuated the failure by police and local authorities to investigate the crimes over the last 12 years.
“Several councilors interviewed believed that by opening up these issues they could be ‘giving oxygen’ to racist perspectives that might in turn attract extremist political groups and threaten community cohesion,” wrote the report’s author, Professor Alexis Jay.
Allen Cowles, a Rotherham councilor for Britain’s United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), which campaigns against what it calls “open door” immigration, said local politicians were too scared of losing votes from Rotherham’s large Muslim population to speak up about the allegations, a view reiterated in much of the British press.
“Quite clearly, an excessive adherence to political correctness led to a failure to do or say the right thing for fear of being called ‘racist,'” he said. “This hindered the investigation of these awful crimes from day one.”
But others say concerns over racism are a weak excuse put forward by those who failed to protect some of the most vulnerable members of society.
On a residential street in Rotherham’s Eastwood estate, groups of Pakistani men gather outside the Jamia Masjid Abu Bakar mosque, to talk and make plans before attending afternoon prayers. Their voices drown out the Adhan Muslim call to prayer played on speakers through an open window.
“For all of these wicked things we have seen, I blame the police and council entirely,” said Mahir, a 63-year-old retired chemical salesmen. “They’re not scared of being called racists when they’re out arresting Pakistani drug dealers – then they are doing their job.”
Others nod in agreement. “Now they are scared,” says one man. “Scared that nothing was done. The whole world knows what happened here in Rotherham.”
ABC News – Only the minaret still stands after an Israeli airstrike reduced Gaza’s Al-Qassam Mosque to a heap of concrete, iron rods and dust. Hours after the pre-dawn attack, rescue workers searched in the rubble, residents gathered — and plainclothes Hamas security agents mingled among them.
Also known as the Grand Mosque, it was one of 63 that Israel has destroyed in its monthlong war with Hamas, according to Palestinian officials. The reason, Israel says, is that Hamas is using mosques to stockpile weapons and rocket launchers, and to hide tunnels used to infiltrate into Israel and carry out attacks.
Gaza’s Hamas rulers deny the accusation, saying Israel is waging a war against Islam. On the ground, many Gazans react the same, saying Israel is attacking their faith.
In its determination to go after what it says are militant arsenals, Israel is throwing aside any reluctance it had in the past to hit religious sites for fear of a diplomatic backlash. In Israel’s week-long 2012 air campaign in Gaza, not a single mosque was hit. In the three-week 2008-2009 war with Hamas, Israel shelled 17 mosques and toppled 20 minarets, saying they were used as Hamas military antennas.
During recent visits by The Associated Press to a half-dozen Gaza mosques destroyed by Israeli strikes, residents categorically denied they were used by Hamas as hideouts for its fighters or as storage places for its hardware.
“None, absolutely none,” or “I never saw members of the resistance anywhere here” were the most common responses to queries about whether the militants used them for military purposes.
And, indeed, most of the targeted mosques did double as social, education and health centers for residents, offering them medical care, classes to memorize the Quran and eradicate illiteracy, as well as sports events like soccer and table tennis tournaments.
Still, in a string of recent conflicts in the region, including the ongoing Syrian civil war and the 2003-2011 Iraq war, militants routinely stored weapons in mosques as Israel accuses Hamas of doing — the houses of worship serving as a deterrent to the enemy, since targeting them could create a public relations disaster.
In this war, Israel’s military says that Hamas has used mosques to stockpile weapons and rocket launchers, to hide tunnel access shafts and lookout posts, and to hold military strategy sessions. It says that of the more than 3,000 rockets Hamas fired at Israel during the war, 600 were launched from civilian facilities, including 160 from mosques. It has also posted video clips on social media sites that it says show Israeli troops uncovering weapons caches inside mosques.
“Terror organizations in the Gaza Strip, led by Hamas, cruelly abused mosques and humanitarian facilities by using them for terror activities,” the Israeli military said in a statement emailed to the AP. “It was Hamas that intentionally chose to establish its offensive capabilities within these premises, rendering them a legitimate target.”
Israeli counterterrorism expert Jonathan Fighel agreed.
“Cynically, they are using those places in order, first of all, to feel immune that they will not be targeted,” said Fighel of the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism, an independent think tank.
“And then if the place is targeted, they can scream and shout and say that the attacking side was violating the sanctity of worship.”
Mosques have traditionally been a key part of Hamas’ infrastructure, serving as centers for recruiting, training and nurturing future fighters, and their destruction would certainly have negative repercussions for the militant movement in the future.
“They want to undermine our faith and resolve, which are the foundations of jihad,” said Yahya Abu Siyam, a bearded primary school teacher, as he sat with other worshippers inside the ruins of the Farouq Mosque in the southern town of Rafah, targeted in a July 22 airstrike that also damaged several homes.
Standing atop the ruins of the Al-Qassam Mosque in the Nuseirat Refugee Camp, Abu Bilal Darwish, the director of Islamic Endowments for central Gaza, echoed the same argument.
“This is aggression against Islam,” he declared. “The occupiers realize that our mosques raise men and people who desire martyrdom for the sake of God.”
Chronicle – A day of anger over a fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man in suburban St. Louis turned to mayhem as people looted businesses, vandalized vehicles and confronted police in riot gear who tried to block access to parts of the city.
The tensions erupted after a candlelight vigil Sunday night for 18-year-old Michael Brown, who police said was shot multiple times Saturday after a scuffle involving the officer, Brown and another person in Ferguson, a predominantly black suburb of the city.
Several businesses near the shooting scene were looted, including a convenience store, a check-cashing store, a boutique and a small grocery store. People took items from a sporting goods store and a cellphone retailer, and carted rims away from a tire store.
TV footage showed streams of people walking from a liquor store carrying bottles of alcohol, and in some cases protesters stood atop police cars or taunted officers who stood stoic, some carrying shields and batons. Video posted online by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch showed a convenience store on fire.
Witnesses reported seeing people vandalize police cars and kick in windows. Television footage showed windows busted out of a TV station van.
Police struggled to catch any looters because crimes were happening at several locations in Ferguson and spilling into neighboring communities, Mayor James Knowles told KTVI-TV. It wasn’t immediately clear how many arrests were made. Authorities set up blockades to keep people from the most looted areas.
St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley said there were no reports of injuries as of about 11 p.m. But there were scattered reports of assaults into the early morning. Pat Washington, a spokeswoman for Dooley, said tear gas had been used. There were scattered media reports of gunfire but authorities did not immediately confirm any.
“The small group of people are creating a huge mess,” Knowles said. “Contributing to the unrest that is going on is not going to help. … We’re only hurting ourselves, only hurting our community, hurting our neighbors.”
Earlier Sunday, a few hundred protesters gathered outside Ferguson Police headquarters. Some marched into an adjacent police building chanting “Don’t shoot me” while holding their hands in the air. Officers stood at the top of a staircase, but didn’t use force; the crowd eventually left.
County Police Chief Jon Belmar said the shooting occurred after an officer encountered Brown and another man outside an apartment complex in Ferguson.
Sploid – Scientists have found two new mysterious giant holes in Siberia, like the one that appeared in Siberia two weeks ago. The new craters are smaller than the first but they share a similar structure. Scientists are still puzzled by the origin of these formations. Here are all the details:
Crater of Antipayuta
This hole was found near the village of Antipayuta in the Taz district. It has a diameter of 50 feet (15 meters) and it’s located a few hundred miles away from the first one, also in the Yamal Peninsula.
A deputy of the regional parliament Mikhail Lapsui visited the area by helicopter:
Its diameter is about 15 meters. There is also ground outside, as if it was thrown as a result of an underground explosion. According to local residents, the hole formed on 27 September 2013. Observers give several versions. According to the first, initially at the place was smoking, and then there was a bright flash. In the second version, a celestial body fell there.
Marina Leibman, Chief Scientist of the Earth Cryosphere Institute said:
I have heard about the second funnel on Yamal, in Taz district, and saw the pictures. Undoubtedly, we need to study all such formations. It is necessary to be able to predict their occurrence. Each new funnel provides additional information for scientists.
Crater of Nosok
This funnel was found by herders near the village of Nosok, in Krasnoyarsk region. It has a diameter of 13 feet (4 meters) and an estimated depth between 197 and 328 feet—60 and 100 meters. According to locals the hole has a perfect cone shape. Experts said:
It is not like this is the work of men, but also doesn’t look like natural formation.
I think we have found a new proving ground for our orbital laser.
The Hill – A senior North Korean military official on Sunday threatened to launch a nuclear strike on the White House and Pentagon, according to Agence France-Presse.
“If the US imperialists threaten our sovereignty and survival … our troops will fire our nuclear-armed rockets at the White House and the Pentagon — the sources of all evil,” Hwang Pyong-So said in a speech in Pyongyang during a military rally.
Hwang is director of the military’s General Political Bureau.
He said North Korea had been provoked by a series of recent military exercises conducted by the United States and South Korea.
North Korea has so far conducted three nuclear tests, Agence France-Presse notes, but doesn’t seem to have the capability to mount a warhead on a missile.
North Korea’s short and mid-range missiles, though, are reportedly capable of striking Japan and South Korea.
North Korea conducted its last nuclear test on Saturday, in which it simulated a short-range missile strike on South Korea. Agence France-Presse said 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea.
The threat comes about a month after North Korea deemed a forthcoming U.S. comedy “an act of war.”
In the “The Interview,” Seth Rogen and James Franco star as journalists who nail an interview with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un. When the CIA finds out about the interview, they recruit the two in an attempt to assassinate him. The film is scheduled to hit theaters in October.