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.
Business Insider – Pickup trucks customized to spew black smoke into the air are quickly becoming the newest weapon in the culture wars.
“Coal Rollers” are diesel trucks modified with chimneys and equipment that can force extra fuel into the engine causing dark black smoke to pour out of the chimney stacks. These modifications are not new, but as Slate’s Dave Weigel pointed out on Thursday, “rolling coal” has begun to take on a political dimension with pickup drivers increasingly viewing their smokestacks as a form of protest against environmentalists and Obama administration emissions regulations.
Last month, Vocativ noted many coal rollers focus their fumes on “nature nuffies,” or people who drive hybrids, and “rice burners,” or Japanese-made cars.
“The feeling around here is that everyone who drives a small car is a liberal,” a roller named Ryan told Vocativ. “I rolled coal on a Prius once just because they were tailing me.”
Weigel spoke to a seller of coal rolling customization equipment who described why some drivers see spewing smoke as a political protest.
“I run into a lot of people that really don’t like Obama at all,” the salesperson said. “If he’s into the environment, if he’s into this or that, we’re not. I hear a lot of that. To get a single stack on my truck—that’s my way of giving them the finger. You want clean air and a tiny carbon footprint? Well, screw you.”
As coal rollers have become a form of conservative protest, their popularity seems to be exploding. Vocativ found Facebook pages dedicated to the phenomenon have about 16,000 followers and over 100,000 rolling coal posts have appeared on Instagram and Tumblr. According to Google Trends, there were virtually no internet searches for “rolling coal” prior to February 2011. Since then, search volume for the term has increased over 700%.
With this explosion in online attention, the battles between coal rollers and their environmentalist enemies are playing out in social media pages, Youtube videos and internet comment sections. Many of the rolling coal Facebook pages feature memes (like the one pictured on the right) that mock hybrid drivers and liberals. Coal rollers have also posted videos showing their trucks blasting more environmentally efficient cars with smoke.
Opponents of the practice have also taken to the internet. Weigel noted “a mid-June surge of comments” from progressives attacking coal rolling social media pages in the wake of the Vocativ article. In 2012, one outraged YouTube user posted a video entitled “Victim Of Coal Rolling” that showed a pickup shooting fumes at his car.
“Blow your smoke at me you son of a bitch,” the driver says in the video.
Though the clip seemed designed as a criticism of coal rollers, it attracted a slew of comments from people who were clearly on the side of the pickup driver.
“What a loser you are, ain’t nothing wrong with rolling some confederate coal,” one person replied.
“Stupid ricers. what were you gonna do you bitch?” another said.
Washington Post – Resistance to the Washington Redskins team name has ebbed and flowed over the years, but thanks in part to letters from 50 senators to the team’s owner, Dan Snyder, and last week’s decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to rescind the team’s trademark registration, the campaign to get rid of it has renewed urgency.
Snyder has shrugged off complaints about the name, even claiming that “redskins” is a “badge of honor.” Team president Bruce Allen, protesting too much, says the name “has always been respectful of and shown reverence toward the proud legacy and traditions of Native Americans.”
But momentum appears to have turned against the preservationists. The trademark decision sounds like an infringement of free-speech rights, but it asserts a degree of pressure in any case. An advertisement opposing the name aired during the National Basketball Association Finals to great fanfare. Current and former National Football League players have criticized the name. And not surprisingly, many Indian tribes and organizations don’t share Allen’s interpretation. This is all to the good.
But even if the NFL and Redskins brass come to their senses and rename the team, a greater symbolic injustice would continue to afflict Indians — an injustice perpetuated not by a football club but by our federal government.
In the United States today, the names Apache, Comanche, Chinook, Lakota, Cheyenne and Kiowa apply not only to Indian tribes but also to military helicopters. Add in the Black Hawk, named for a leader of the Sauk tribe. Then there is the Tomahawk, a low-altitude missile, and a drone named for an Indian chief, Gray Eagle. Operation Geronimo was the end of Osama bin Laden.
Why do we name our battles and weapons after people we have vanquished? For the same reason the Washington team is the Redskins and my hometown Red Sox go to Cleveland to play the Indians and to Atlanta to play the Braves: because the myth of the worthy native adversary is more palatable than the reality — the conquered tribes of this land were not rivals but victims, cheated and impossibly outgunned.
The destruction of the Indians was asymmetric war, compounded by deviousness in the name of imperialist manifest destiny. White America shot, imprisoned, lied, swindled, preached, bought, built and voted its way to domination. Identifying our powerful weapons and victorious campaigns with those we subjugated serves to lighten the burden of our guilt. It confuses violation with a fair fight.
It is worse than denial; it is propaganda. The message carried by the word Apache emblazoned on one of history’s great fighting machines is that the Americans overcame an opponent so powerful and true that we are proud to adopt its name. They tested our mettle, and we proved stronger, so don’t mess with us. In whatever measure it is tribute to the dead, it is in greater measure a boost to our national sense of superiority. And this message of superiority is shared not just with U.S. citizens but with those of the 14 nations whose governments buy the Apache helicopters we sell. It is shared, too, with those who hear the whir of an Apache overhead or find its guns trained on them. Noam Chomsky has clarified the moral stakes in provocative, instructive terms: “We might react differently if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes ‘Jew’ and ‘Gypsy.’ ”
If the native tribes did not stand a chance, this does not imply lack of resistance or of courage; regardless, it doesn’t much matter in this context. Whatever courage they had, the U.S. military is not heir to it. If honor matters to the members of our armed forces, they will agree.
Perhaps the senators outraged by the Redskins name could turn their letter-writing pens on the Defense Department next. And when that’s done, there is the more important step, when these senators, and their constituents, choose not only to be offended on behalf of Indians but also to be partners in improving their lives. War and forced removal have been replaced by high rates of unemployment, poverty, substance abuse, illness and disability; by inadequate housing and education; by hate crimes, police harassment, disenfranchisement and effective segregation. Being a Native American means living, on average, more than four years less than other Americans. The violence is ongoing, even if the guns are silent.
So, sure, rename the football team. But don’t stop there.
Fox News – From the Middle East to Russia, and from Africa to Asia, the bloody tide of jihad is rising as increasingly fragmented terror groups battle governments and each other for power and property.
Daily reports of the terror group Islamic States of Iraq and Syria/Levant, or ISIS, advancing toward a caliphate in Iraq have supplanted equally horrific news from Nigeria, where Boko Haram slaughtered schoolboys and kidnapped girls to sell into slavery. All the while, terror attacks in the name of Islam have continued in China, where members of the Islamic sect known as Uighurs are suspected of mass stabbing attacks, and Kenya, where the Muslim terrorist group al-Shabaab murdered 48 people a week ago.
“It is metastasizing worldwide because we are seeing radical Islam and groups organized across the world feeling empowered to bring back and resurrect an Islamic caliphate and establish Islam as they see it in their own eyes as it was practiced in the days of Muhammad,” said Brigitte Gabriel, founder of Act! for America, and author of “They Must be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It.”
Many of the attacks are from Al Qaeda splinter groups or loose affiliates seeking to spread the message of Shariah law and hatred of the West. What the terrorism hierarchy loses in central coordination, it more than makes up for in global reach.
“People splinter off and create their own factions, like ISIS,” said Kamran Bokhari, vice president of Middle Eastern and South Asian Affairs for geopolitical analysis firm Stratfor, and author of “Political Islam in the Age of Democratization.” “It’s really about power — everyone wants a payday.”
Recent months have seen extremists Boko Haram and ISIS on the attack, seemingly one-upping one another in terms of brutality. Both of those groups reportedly broke ties with Al Qaeda, in part because their tactics were too extreme even for the terror organization that launched the 9/11 attacks.
ISIS, which shares the goal of toppling Iraq’s government with Sunni fighters, has reportedly alienated its brothers in arms with it sheer viciousness. Decapitating government soldiers, shooting Christians point blank and implementing strict Shariah law in conquered territory, the group seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate in the historic region known as the Levant. They have taken over the major Iraqi cities of Mosul and Tikrit, and are bent on capturing the Shiite holy cities of Karbala and Najaf and the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
Boko Haram has proven equally atrocious, incinerating young boys after locking them in a school and kidnapping young Christian girls and forcing them to convert to Islam. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has said the group is responsible for killing 12,000 and leaving another 8,000 permanently injured. More than 200 schoolgirls remain missing after being kidnapped in April, and on Monday, local reports said it had seized 60 women and girls, as well as more than 30 boys in villages in Borno State, in the nation’s northeast.
Earlier this month, Boko Haram was blamed for killing hundreds of people in a massacre in northeastern Nigeria along the border with Cameroon, and deadly car bombs have frequently rocked the Nigerian capital of Abuja in recent months.
Other Islamic terrorist groups have been actively killing in the name of Allah this year. On Sunday, members of Somalia-based Al Qaeda offshoot al-Shabaab stormed the Kenyan village of Mpeketoni, about 60 miles from the Somali border and murdered 48 people. The extremists went door to door and asked residents if they were Muslim or spoke Somali before shooting those who answered “no.”
Al-Shabaab has vowed to carry out terror attacks in Kenya in response to the country’s military actions in Somalia, and was responsible for the infamous attack at the Westgate Shopping Center in Nairobi in September 2013, when at least 67 people were killed and more than 175 wounded.
Much like last week’s village attack, victims were vetted to see if they were Muslim or of another religious faith.
Last March, in the Chinese city of Kunming, Uighur separatists descended upon a rail station with an assortment of blades and slashed more than 150 innocent people, leaving 29 dead in the attack. The Uighurs are a Muslim people concentrated in the northwest region of China. While representatives of the group condemned the attack, many of them have griped about being under Chinese rule and a lack of access to jobs and education.
“The number of victims is trending higher, but what’s also different is the type of attention the terrorists are receiving,” said Glen Roberts, the pseudonym for the operator of TheReligionofPeace.com, a blog that posts a daily tally of atrocities committed in the name of Islam. “With the United States effectively out of Iraq — and never having been in Nigeria — the usual distractions aren’t there. The true religious and sectarian motives are becoming more difficult for the pundits to ignore.”
Bokhari said one possible explanation for the rise of an already violent brand of religious extremism is the so-called Arab Spring. Initially embraced as a movement to oust dictators and usher in an age of democracy, it instead created instability and power vacuums in many nations with sizable populations of radical Muslim fundamentalists.
“There is this fragmentation of states, so there’s a vacuum where non-state entities are able to exploit an opportunity,” he said. “Many of these groups are taking advantage.”
Slate – Desperate calls for help from the United Nations aren’t just for war-torn and developing nations anymore. The city of Detroit—a city that has been on the brink in many ways—in an effort to balance its books, has begun shutting off water access to city residents behind on their payments. While that may seem like what happens to anyone when they don’t pay their bills, Detroit is a unique case—nearly half of the 323,900 residents who use the utility are delinquent, according to the Detroit Free Press. To make matters worse, Al Jazeera America reports, Detroit’s average monthly water bill is nearly double the national average of $40. The Detroit City Council approved a 9 percent hike earlier last week.
In response, a coalition of activist groups in the city, have appealed to the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights for relief. Here’s what they’re hoping for via Think Progress:
“We are asking the UN special rapporteur to make clear to the U.S. government that it has violated the human right to water,” said Maude Barlow, the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and a key member of the coalition that put the report together. In addition to creating international pressure to stop the Detroit shutoffs, Barlow said, the UN’s intervention could lead to formal consequences for the United States. “If the US government does not respond appropriately this will also impact their Universal Periodic Review,” she said, “when they stand before the Human Rights Council to have their [human rights] record evaluated.”
Earlier this year, to balance the department’s $118 million debt, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department deployed crews to with the aim to cut some 3,000 residents’ access to the water supply each week as part of an effort to shut off water to more than 150,000 delinquent customers, according to the Detroit Free Press.