World Wrap: October 9, 2013
Riyadh upset with Washington’s moves in the Middle East, Mursi’s trial set for November, and businessmen stay away from dangerous investments in Russia. Today is Wednesday, October 9, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.
Saudi Arabia simmers over U.S.-Iran communication
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (L) has coffee with Saudi Deputy Minister of Defense Prince Fahd bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Abdulrahman upon his arrival at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, April 23, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Watson/Pool
Keep your friends close. Washington’s overtures to Tehran could shake the U.S.’s longstanding friendship with Saudi Arabia, which adds the recent direct communications between President Obama and his Iranian counterpart to a long list of grievances against its Western ally:
Engaged in what they see as a life-and-death struggle for the future of the Middle East with arch-rival Iran, Saudi rulers are furious that the international body has taken no action over Syria, where they and Tehran back opposing sides… The alliance between the United States, the biggest economy and most powerful democracy, and Saudi Arabia, the Islamic monarchy that dominates oil supplies, is not about to break. But, as happened 40 years ago next week when an OPEC oil embargo punished U.S. war support for Israel, Riyadh is willing – albeit without touching energy supplies – to defy Washington in defense of its regional interests.
On Monday, King Abdullah denounced the Muslim brotherhood in a rare TV appearance, indirectly criticizing the U.S. for not protecting then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak against the mass 2011 protests which led to his ouster. Saudi Arabia is primarily concerned with Shi’ite Muslim clerics who call for revolution in Iran and, they believe, contribute to anti-Sunni sentiment in the region at large. Iran has rejected any U.S. condition for participating in the Syria peace conference, effectively refusing to consider cease support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Iran will discuss its disputed nuclear program with world leaders next week, a meeting one former nuclear negotiator said should be used as an opportunity to build confidence between respective leaders.
University students and members of the Muslim Brotherhood shout slogans against the military in front of Cairo University in Cairo, October 8, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
Brotherhood trial set. An Egyptian court set a November 4 date for deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi’s trial. Mursi and other Brotherhood leaders were charged with inciting violence during a protest that left dozens dead last December:
Mursi has been held in a secret location since his overthrow in early July. If he is brought before the court, it will be his first appearance in public since then. The trial could further inflame tensions between the Islamist movement and the army-backed government and deepen the political instability that has decimated tourism and investment in the most populous Arab state. Judge Nabil Saleeb said Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood members had been charged with “inciting the killing and torture of protesters in front of the Etihadeya (presidential) palace.”
A U.S. official said Washington will likely stick to an earlier decision to withhold most military aidfrom Egypt, as it walks the line between supporting the democratic process that led to Mursi’s election and maintaining ties with Egypt’s powerful army.
Private security officers guard the Georgian restaurant Khachapuri in Moscow, September 3, 2013. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
Risky business. Men in hoods and balaclavas chased staff out of a restaurant with metal rods, beat employees, and smash furniture in a Moscow raid that exemplifies why investors are discouraged from Russia’s business landscape, where property laws offer little protection and corruption is pervasive:
Putin made improving Russia’s investment climate a priority when he returned to the Kremlin last year for a third term. He has since pushed through an amnesty on some economic crimes that has seen hundreds of entrepreneurs released from jail. Critics say the changes are cosmetic and that the weak rule of law and collusion between corrupt law enforcement and justice officials still mean that victims of corporate raids lack adequate recourse to defend their rights. Several small and medium-sized businesses in Moscow polled by Reuters for this article described an insecure environment with movable laws, weak enforcement and the threat of being targeted by government or law enforcement officials on the make.
One foreign businessman said he felt his interests were safe after seeking protection from local, well-connected investors, and one restaurant owner said, “You are protected as long as your property is not of any interest to the people in power.”
Nota Bene: Isolated Hamas struggles to meet its payroll in Gaza strip.
Not the worst - The U.S. debt disaster is still better than Japan’s. (Bloomberg Businessweek)
Donut-muffin wars - An English bakery is disputing Starbucks’ proprietary claim to the “duffin.” (The Atlantic Cities)
Maduro-man - Maduro asks parliament for special powers to fight corruption. (BBC)
E-OK - The European Parliament rejects strict restrictions on e-cigarettes. (New York Times)
Virtual kidnap - Spanish band told by phone they could be shot at any time. (The Guardian)
Check out more from World Wrap at Reuters dot com.
World Wrap: October 7, 2013
Rival Libyan factions try for independence, bloodshed continues after weekend violence in Egypt, and Syria wins praise for starting disarmament process. Today is Monday, October 7, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.
Libyan factions far from secession as U.S. raid highlights unrest
Ali Zeidan, Prime Minister of Libya, addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York, September 25, 2013. REUTERS/Adam Hunger
Libyan oil battles. Two years after the end of Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year regime, Libya is divided into rival factions striving towards independence and vying for oil:
The main city Benghazi has already set up its own council demanding to run local affairs, and called for state oil company NOC to return to an area that was once Libya’s economic heartland. “The government and congress exploit Libya’s wealth and use it to serve their agendas,” said Ibrahim al-Jathran, the former head of an oil protection security unit who defected and seized eastern ports as a self-styled federalist chieftain. Yet as chaotic as Libya appears, it is far from partition or from taking the path of Iraq, where federalism splits oil revenue between Baghdad’s Arab-led government and a Kurdish enclave that runs its own administration and armed forces. Rather than a widespread popular movement, Libya’s autonomy protests have grown out of Tripoli’s lack of control, tribal loyalties and a series of unresolved local grievances over security, corruption and poor services that have festered since the 2011 revolution.
Analysts say that declarations of independence by various federalist groups lack the necessary support on the ground to make a political difference. It would be difficult for independent groups to trade oil without Tripoli’s consent, as the government has threatened to destroy unauthorized international shipments. Still, the unrest could make it easier for Islamist operatives to take hold in the region. Over the weekend, U.S. forces captured an al Qaeda leader wanted for the 1998 bombing of an American embassy in Nairobi, prompting an angry response from Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan:
The capture of Nazih al-Ragye, better known as Abu Anas al-Liby, also provoked a complaint about the “kidnap” from the Western-backed Libyan prime minister, who faces a backlash from armed Islamists who have carved out a share of power since the West helped Libyan rebels oust Muammar Gaddafi two years ago… “This won’t just pass,” [Abdul Bassit Haroun, a former Islamist militia commander who works with the Libyan government. Islamist militants] said. “There will be a strong reaction in order to take revenge because this is one of the most important al Qaeda figures.”
The U.S. also attempted to capture a wanted militant in Somalia on Saturday but was unsuccessful.
A riot police officer fires tear gas during clashes between anti-Mursi protesters, and members of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi supporters, along a road at Ramsis square, which leads to Tahrir Square, at a celebration marking Egypt’s 1973 war with Israel, in Cairo, October 6, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Cairo clash resurgence. Suspected militants killed six Egyptian soldiers and fired a grenade at a satellite station in Cairo, following one of Egypt’s deadliest weekends since former president Mohamed Mursi was deposed by the military in July:
Dozens of supporters of deposed President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood were killed on Sunday in clashes with his opponents and security forces. The death toll from the violence across the country rose to 53, state media said, with 271 people wounded in one of the bloodiest days since the military deposed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July. Further confrontations may shake Egypt this week, with Mursi’s supporters calling protests for Tuesday and Friday. They are likely to be angered by the publication of an interview with Egypt’s army chief on Monday in which he said he told Mursi as long ago as February he had failed as president.
Egypt’s military has cracked down on Muslim Brotherhood leaders since breaking up pro-Mursi protest camps in an August 14 attack that left hundreds dead. The political unrest has led Islamists in the turbulent Sinai region to increase attacks, killing more than 100 Egyptian security officers since July.
A Free Syrian Army fighter helps a civilian carry his belongings in Deir al-Zor October 6, 2013.
Assad acclaimed. International leaders praised Syria for starting to destroy its chemical weaponsover the weekend, in compliance with a U.N. resolution demanding chemical disarmament passed last week:
An official from the international mission overseeing the stock pile’s elimination said Damascus had made an excellent start, and the United States acknowledged its rapid compliance with a U.N. resolution on destroying chemical weapons as extremely significant… U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday’s work was a good beginning and offered rare praise for Assad, a leader Washington insists lost legitimacy when he responded with force to protests against his rule which erupted in March 2011… “I think it’s also credit to the Assad regime for complying rapidly, as they are supposed to,” [Kerry] said. “I’m not going to vouch today for what happens months down the road, but it’s a good beginning, and we should welcome a good beginning.”
Opposition activist Susan Ahmad argues the disarmament program is a step backwards, saying “It is all about giving Assad more time to kill more people. And here he is, using Scud (missiles) and recruiting fighters.” The U.N. expects 4 million more Syrians to flee their homes or country in 2014.
Nota Bene: Suspected Islamist fighters attack a northern Mali city in the first strike on the former rebel stronghold in months.
Global gastronomy - A chart shows the diets of different nations. (The Atlantic Cities)
Romancing rays - Manta rays won’t mate in the Maldives’ nutrient-low waters. (The Guardian)
Presidential flame - Putin launches torch relay for Sochi Olympics. (BBC)
Cloud crackdown - Europe Union wants to regulate the Cloud. (New York Times)
Ski rush - North Korea rushes to finish luxury ski resort. (Associated Press)
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World Wrap: September 25, 2013
U.S.-Iran handshake a no go at the U.N., Kenya combs through mall wreckage, and Egypt shutters Brotherhood newspaper. Today is Wednesday, September 25, and this the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.
Syria and Iran top agenda as world leaders meet in New York
United States President Barack Obama addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 24, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Burton/Pool
Hands tied. President Barack Obama and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani each spoke of warming ties between the nations during speeches at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, but did not shake hands – a move that would have given credence to friendly overtures. The two leaders exchanged cordial letters recently, and some speculated that more open dialogue could lead to an impromptu meeting during the General Assembly:
The failed handshake was a sign of the difficulties the United States and Iran face in trying to seize a historic opening after decades of hostility. Even a brief meeting would have been symbolically important given that it would have been the first face-to-face contact between U.S. and Iranian heads of government since before the 1979 Islamic revolution that ousted the U.S.-backed shah. Rouhani’s gestures since taking office last month, including agreeing to renew long-stalled talks with world powers on Iran’s nuclear program, have raised hopes for a thaw in relations between Washington and Tehran after years of estrangement.
The U.S. was open to a meeting between Obama and Rouhani, despite wariness from Congress, but a U.S. official said Iran found the encounter too complicated. In a speech on Tuesday, Obama said he preferred a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff between the nations, welcoming Rouhani’s relatively moderate approach to the nuclear program. However, Obama did not offer concessions on sanctions, which Rouhani criticized as causing “belligerence, warmongering and human suffering.” Washington suspects Iran is working to develop nuclear arms, which the U.S. and Israel find unacceptable and Tehran denies. World leaders also continued to discuss a Syrian chemical weapons disarmament plan on Tuesday, with Obama pushing for a U.N. Security Council resolution that would allow for military action against Syria if the Assad regime refuses to comply with the draft’s conditions. Russian leaders have said they won’t agree to the possibility of a strike. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over Syria on Tuesday and said the meeting was constructive.
A cemetery worker walks near the fresh graves (L) of Selima Merali, 41, and her daughter Nuriana Merali, 15, who were killed in the attack by gunmen at the Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi, September 25, 2013.
Shopping center search starts. Kenyan officials began searching through the rubble of a Nairobi shopping mall where al Shabaab militants held hostages from Saturday through Tuesday, leaving at least 72 people dead in a siege intended to protest Kenya’s military presence in Somalia:
After a four-day siege, President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Tuesday troops had defeated the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group that targeted the shopping center popular with prosperous Kenyans and foreigners. He declared three days of mourning. The attack has highlighted the reach of the Somali al Shabaab and the capabilities of its crack unit believed to be behind the bloodshed in Westgate mall, confirming international fears that as long as Somalia remains in turmoil it will be a recruiting and training ground for militant Islam… Kenya has said 10 to 15 attackers launched the raid. Ole Lenku said the investigation would seek to ascertain if there were any females among the assailants, as some witness accounts suggest, and would also see if the groups had rented a store in the mall prior the attack as part of their preparation.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said five militants and six security officers were among those killed. Police say they are holding 11 people in custody in relation to the attack, which officials believe was carried out by al Shabaab operatives from various nations. Read Reuters photographer Goran Tomasevic’s chilling account of photographing the violence here.
A man reads the Muslim Brotherhood’s newspaper Al-Hurriya wa-l-adala (Freedom and Justice), named after their political party, in Cairo, September 3, 2013.
Papered over. Egyptian officials closed the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice newspaper on Wednesday, days after a court formally banned the party from public life. The paper had focused on undermining the military takeover that ousted former president Mohamed Mursi in July:
Police stormed the building overnight and removed the contents. A source at the Cairo Security Department said the raid followed Monday’s court ruling which banned the Brotherhood and ordered its funds seized. “A court ruling was issued to do it on charges of inciting violence and terrorism in the recent past,” a security source said, referring to the operation. The army overthrew Mohamed Mursi in July, and the Brotherhood has seen hundreds of its members killed and thousands arrested since then. The campaign had forced many of the 50 journalists who produced the daily Freedom and Justice to work in secret to avoid arrest.
Monday’s ruling against the Muslim Brotherhood did not mention the fate of the party’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party.
Nota Bene: Pakistani army airlifts hundreds of soldiers to help after its worst earthquake since 2005.
Man crush - Young American hunters start a Putin fan club. (The Atlantic)
Two-headed operation - Afghan surgeons successfully operated on an infant with a second skull. (BBC)
Rouhani on LinkedIn - Israeli diplomats mock Iran’s president with a fake profile. (New York Times)
Smog check - It could cost $817 billion dollars to clean up China’s air. (Time)
For science’s sake - Popular Science shuts down its comments section. (Popular Science)
Check out more from World Wrap at Reuters dot com.
World Wrap: August 22, 2013
Western leaders call for an investigation into Syria’s alleged chemical attack, Bo Xilai gets feisty, and Mubarak leaves prison via helicopter. Today is Thursday, August 22, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.
Leaders demand Syria allow U.N. to investigate into alleged chemical attack
A Free Syrian Army fighter holds a gas mask as he sits inside a house in the besieged area of Homs, August 22, 2013. REUTERS/Yazan Homsy
World reacts to Syria deaths. A day after an alleged chemical attack killed hundreds of Syria in what would be the world’s worst chemical attack in decades, Western leaders called for Syria to allow United Nations chemical weapons inspectors to access affected sites:
After months of negotiating with Assad’s government to let inspectors into Syria, a U.N. team arrived in Damascus four days ago. Their task is to check on the presence, but not the sources, of chemical weapons that are alleged to have been released in three specific, small incidents several months ago. They have no mandate beyond that. A divided U.N. Security Council, meeting in emergency session on Wednesday, failed to endorse a Western push for an immediate inspection of the sites near Damascus. It called only for “clarity” on the incident. Syria’s government offered no immediate public response to calls on Thursday for the U.N. team to have access to the area.
Opposition leaders say the attack was carried out by Assad’s forces, an accusation the Syrian government denies. Russia backed Assad’s denial, calling the attack a “provocation” by rebel forces to discredit the government, while Israel said their intelligence assessments show chemical weapons were used and placed heavy blame on Iran for supporting Assad. A spokesman for the rebels’ Supreme Military Council said the group is deliberating how to respond to the alleged attack, adding that “People are growing desperate as they watch another round of political statements and U.N. meetings without any hope of action.” The Free Syria Army estimated roughly 1,700 casualties from aerial and chemical bombardments that hit near Damascus early Wednesday morning. Other groups suggest a lower count, but say that bodies are still being found.
Disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai stands trial inside the court in Jinan, Shandong province, August 22, 2013, in this photo released by Jinan Intermediate People’s Court. REUTERS/Jinan Intermediate People’s Court/Handout via Reuters
Bo’s day in court. Disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai said he was framed in bribery charges against him, kicking off the country’s most political trial in decades:
The 64-year-old former Communist Party chief of the southwestern city of Chongqing has been charged with illegally taking almost 27 million yuan ($4.41 million), corruption and abuse of power and will almost certainly be found guilty. Bo’s denial of the charges and strong language as he made his first public appearance since being ousted early last year were unexpected. But observers said he could have agreed to choreographed proceedings that would show authorities in an impartial light in exchange for a pre-arranged sentence.
The trial exposes divisions in Chinese society, with Bo’s supporters representing a socialist sensibility and his detractors espousing Beijing’s more capitalist tendencies. Chinese President Xi Jinping is likely to tout the trial as an example of his commitment to combating corruption in politics.
A supporter of former president Hosni Mubarak holds his poster to celebrate as she waits for his release in front of the main gate of Tora prison on the outskirts of Cairo, August 22, 2013. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal
Mubarak whisked away. A helicopter took former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to a military hospital from Cairo’s Tora prison after an Egyptian prosecutor demanded his release this morning:
Judicial authorities had ordered Mubarak’s release from Tora. His lawyer and other sources said earlier that his first destination would be an upscale hospital northeast of Cairo. The prime minister’s office has said Mubarak will be placed under house arrest.
The decision follows Egypt’s most violent period of internal strife, which left roughly 900 people dead. Egypt has been in turmoil since the July 3 ouster of former president Mohamed Mursi. The Muslim Brotherhood has called for “Friday of martyrs” marches to be held tomorrow in protest of the country’s military-backed interim government.
Nota Bene: Zimbabwe’s Mugabe, 89, is sworn-in for five more years as president.
Personality politics - Author Ben Judah describes how Russia’s opposition movement became the Navalny movement. (Reuters)
Fifty shades of nay - A lawyer dismisses rumors that Fifty Shades of Grey is a favorite among inmates at Guantanamo Bay. (BBC)
Onion nabbers - Rising onion prices tempt highway robbers in India. (The New York Times)
Avant-trash - A London artist turns garbage into street art. (The Atlantic Cities)
Pocket detective - Tens of thousands of Brazilians download a briefly available boyfriend-tracker app. (The Associated Press)
Check out more from World Wrap at Reuters dot com.
World Wrap: August 21, 2013
Possible chemical attack kills hundreds in Syria, Japan’s nuclear crisis escalates to worst in years, and Egyptian court orders Mubarak’s release from jail. Today is Wednesday, August 21, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.
Syrian opposition reports hundreds killed in chemical weapons attack
A man sits in a hospital near two children who activists say were affected by nerve gas in the Ghouta region, in the Duma neighborhood of Damascus, August 21, 2013. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh
Chemical massacre? Syrian opposition activists accused President Bashar al-Assad’s government of killing up to 1,300 people in an early-morning bombardment of rockets and chemical agents. If confirmed, the attack would constitute the worst use of chemical weapons in Syria’s conflict so far:
(Bayan Baker, a nurse at Douma Emergency Collection said,) ”Many of the casualties are women and children. They arrived with their pupils dilated, cold limbs and foam in their mouths. The doctors say these are typical symptoms of nerve gas victims”… The U.N. team is in Syria investigating allegations that both rebels and army forces used chemical weapons in the past, one of the main disputes in international diplomacy over Syria.
Images, including some taken by Reuters photographers, reveal apparently uninjured bodies on the floor of a medical clinic. Amateur videos posted to social media sites show rooms filled with corpses and doctors treating people in makeshift clinics. The Syrian government denied the allegations, while the head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition called the attack a “massacre.” The reported attack took place just a few miles from the hotel where U.N. chemical experts are staying during their investigation into Syria’s alleged past use of chemical agents.France, Turkey, the UK, the Arab League, and others have called on the U.N. to investigate the attack immediately, but Syria’s ambassador to Russia said the accusations against Assad were “fabricated.” Reports suggest Assad may have used small amounts of sarin gas against rebels earlier this year, crossing Obama’s “red line.”
An aerial view shows workers wearing protective suits and masks working atop contaminated water storage tanks at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima, in this photo taken by Kyodo on August 20, 2013. REUTERS/Kyodo
Radioactive rupture. Japan’s nuclear crisis has reached its highest level since an earthquake and tsunami caused reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant, as water with dangerous levels of radiation leaks from a storage tank:
The NRA (Nuclear Regulation Authority) said it was worried about leakage from other similar tanks that were built hastily to store water washed over melted reactors at the station to keep them cool. Water in the latest leak is so contaminated that a person standing close to it for an hour would receive five times the annual recommended limit for nuclear workers. A spokesman for the NRA said the agency plans to upgrade the severity of the crisis from a Level 1 “anomaly” to a Level 3 “serious incident” on an international scale for radiological releases.
Tepco denied the plant was leaking radioactive water for several months before coming clean in July. The U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency said on Wednesday that the latest development is serious, and that it is ready to help if needed. China’s foreign ministry expressed shock over the leak.
Egypt’s ousted President Hosni Mubarak sits inside a dock at the police academy on the outskirts of Cairo, April 15, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer
Free to go. An Egyptian court ordered the release of deposed Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak. According to his attorney, Mubarak could be a free man as soon as tomorrow:
Mubarak, 85, was sentenced to life in prison last year for failing to prevent the killing of demonstrators. But a court accepted his appeal earlier this year and ordered a retrial.… Mubarak is still being retried on charges of complicity in the killing of protesters during the revolt against him, but he has already served the maximum pre-trial detention in that case.
The prosecution has said it won’t appeal the order. Although Mubarak is not expected to return to politics, commentators on Twitter quipped that without a conviction and following the ouster of President Mursi, Mubarak could run for president of Egypt.
Nota Bene: U.S. WikiLeaks soldier Manning receives 35-year sentence.
Al Qaeda high - The U.S. sanctions an Islamic school in Pakistan for allegedly training militants. (The Associated Press)
Cheers - Australian scientists are working on developing a hangover-proof beer. (The Atlantic Cities)
Hold the ketchup - Brazilian health officials find traces of rodent fur in a batch of Mexican-made Heinz Ketchup. (BBC)
“Performing for the chairs” - American singer Brandy sulks off stage after performing to a near-empty stadium in South Africa. (The Guardian)
Friendlier French - Paris’ tourism board encourages the French to mind their manners. (The New York Times)
Check out more from World Wrap at Reuters dot com.
World Wrap: August 20, 2013
Brotherhood leader jailed, defectors share horrifying stories from North Korean prison camps, and the British government smashes the Guardian’s computers. Today is Tuesday, August 20, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.
Egypt detains Muslim Brotherhood leader
Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie sits at a police station after security forces arrested him in Cairo in this handout picture dated August 20, 2013. REUTERS/The Interior Ministry/Handout via Reuters
Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader whisked off to prison. Egypt’s military-backed interim government detained the Muslim Brotherhood’s leader on Tuesday morning, in the midst of Egypt’s bloodiest week since former President Mohamed Mursi’s ouster on July 3:
Mohamed Badie, 70, the Brotherhood’s general guide, was taken from an apartment in Nasr City in northeast Cairo, the area where protesters demanding Mursi’s reinstatement had staged a vigil for six weeks before they were violently dispersed. He was charged in July with incitement to murder during protests before Mursi’s overthrow and is due to stand trial on August 25 together with his two deputies. Footage circulated on local media showed the bearded Brotherhood leader sitting grim-faced on a sofa in a grey robe, hands folded in his lap, while a man with a rifle stands by. The release of the images seemed designed to humiliate the Brotherhood’s most senior chief, whose arrest means the top echelon of the Islamist movement is now behind bars.
An Al Jazeera correspondent in Cairo called the arrest “incredibly significant,” explaining that Badie’s arrest was viewed as a “red line” even under Mubarak’s presidency. A spokesman for the Tamarod group, which started the anti-government protests against Mursi last month, praised Badie’s arrest as “an important step [toward] dismantling the terrorist group by arresting its leaders.” A U.S. Senator told the Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin that the White House has put military aid to Egypt on hold. Gulf Arab states have offered to make up the difference in any cuts, decreasing the effectiveness of such a threat from Western leaders. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE have pledged $12 billion in loans and aid to Egypt since Mursi was overthrown. Experts fear that the military crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood could provide fodder for extremist Islamist groups like al Qaeda to mobilize its members with images of violence against fellow Islamists.
Shin Dong-hyuk, a former North Korean defector, attends a public hearing at Yonsei university in Seoul, August 20, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Torture, executions in North Korean prison camps. For the first time, a U.N. Commission of Inquiry panel is investigating North Korea’s human rights record. In a public hearing in Seoul, defectors described their experiences in North Korea’s prisons:
Harrowing accounts from defectors now living in South Korea related how guards chopped off a man’s finger, forced inmates to eat frogs and a mother to kill her own baby… There are a 150,000-200,000 people in North Korean prison camps, according to independent estimates, and defectors say many inmates are malnourished or worked to death. After more than a year and a half ruling North Korea, Kim Jong Un, 30, has shown few signs of changing the rigid rule of his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather, state founder Kim Il Sung. Neither have there been signs of a thaw or loss of control inside the tightly controlled state.
Though experts doubt that the commission’s findings will lead to tangible change in the North, they hope that the testimonies will shed light on the rights situation in North Korea.
The editor of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, leaves Downing Street in London, December 4, 2012. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
Alan Rusbridger said he had received a call from a government official a month ago who told him: “You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.” The paper had been threatened with legal action if it did not comply. Later, two “security experts” from the secretive Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had visited the paper’s London offices and watched as computer hard drives containing Snowden material were reduced to mangled bits of metal. Asked by the BBC who he thought was behind those events, Rusbridger said he had “got the sense there was an active conversation” involving government departments, intelligence agencies and the prime minister’s Downing Street office.
Rusbridger said the move was symbolic and pointless, adding that his paper will “continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents.” On Sunday, British police held David Miranda, partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, under anti-terrorism laws for several hours in London’s Heathrow airport on Sunday without charge. Greenwald, the first journalist to publish secret documents obtained by Snowden, said he won’t be intimidated by the incident.
Nota Bene: The U.S. State Department believes Zimbabwe’s recent election of Robert Mugabe was flawed, and does not plan to ease sanctions against the country.
Enigma without a dogma - Reuters columnist John Lloyd points out the contradictions of Egyptian General Sisi. (Reuters)
Ski lift downer - Switzerland delivers a blow to Kim Jong-un’s dream of building a ski resort. (BBC)
War on witchcraft - Saudi Arabia’s religious police pursue magical crime. (The Atlantic)
Lie detected - The con man who sold “useless” bomb detectors gets seven years in prison. (The Belfast Telegraph)
Brought to you by the CIA - The CIA admits for the first time ever to its role in Iran’s 1953 coup. (Foreign Policy)
Check out more from World Wrap at Reuters dot com.
World Wrap: August 19, 2013
Egyptian court drops bombshell on country in turmoil, Kim Jong-un tries Mr. Nice Guy routine, and Britain sends warships to Gibraltar amid fishing controversy. Today is Monday, August 19, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.
Mubarak could be freed by end of the week
Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak sits inside a cage in a courtroom at the police academy in Cairo, April 13, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer
Add Mubarak to the mix. Deposed President Hosni Mubarak will be released from prison this week, according to the former leader’s attorney. Mubarak, ousted in Egypt’s 2011 uprising, wascleared on Monday of a corruption charge. The news follows wave of violence that left at least 850 dead after a military crackdown last week:
Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for 30 years, was arrested soon after his overthrow and became the first Arab leader to face trial… Mubarak, along with his interior minister, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison last year for failing to stop the killing of protesters in the revolt that swept him from power. He still faces a retrial in that case after appeals from the prosecution and defense, but this would not necessarily require him to stay in jail.
Violence last week and over the weekend has prompted several U.S. lawmakers to call for a halt on $1.5 billion in U.S. aid to Egypt. EU leaders are weighing economic options for pressuring Egypt’s ruling military to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. Still, Western leaders fear that withdrawing aid could increase instability in the region, especially in areas bordering Israel, and strain ties with other key Gulf Arab states. On Sunday, Saudi Arabia warned the U.S. and the EU not to pressure Egypt’s military-backed government. Bloodshed continued this morning when suspected Islamist militants killed at least 24 police officers in the Sinai Peninsula. The weeks of turmoil since Mursi’s July 3 ouster have painted Egypt as the “graveyard” of the Arab Spring. Meanwhile, footage of dying Islamists has provided a rallying cry for al Qaeda.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un (front C) visits the construction site of a ski resort being built on Masik Pass in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on August 18, 2013. REUTERS/KCNA
Cash for coming home. In an unprecedented move for North Korea’s ruling Kim family, the country’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un is attempting to persuade defectors to return to the hermit state with promises of safety, cash rewards, and fame:
North Korean security agents have been visiting families in the reclusive state for at least the past year, telling them it would be safe for their loved ones in the South to come back, several defectors in Seoul told Reuters. Some said they had even heard of people posing as defectors trying to tempt North Koreans in the South this year with a promise of 50 million South Korean won ($45,000) and an opportunity to appear on television in Pyongyang if they returned. “My mother said ‘if you have money, come back. General Kim Jong-un will treat you well’,” said one defector in her 30s who lives in Seoul, recounting a recent telephone conversation with her mother who called her from a North Korean town on the border with China.
Kim’s motive remains unclear, although some defectors believe that an increasingly visible exile community in South Korea is pressuring the leader to maintain control over public perception. One diplomat in Pyongyang said the testimony of defectors who have returned home is used as internal propaganda in North Korea. The number of defectors into South Korea has decreased this year as the North has increased security at the border.
British Royal Navy frigate HMS Westminster is towed towards the port after arriving at Gibraltar bay, south of Spain, August 19, 2013. REUTERS/Jon Nazca
Message received. British warships arrived in Gibraltar for scheduled exercises – a move that some in Spain consider a provocation – as tension between Britain and Spain mounts over fishing around the British territory:
Gibraltar’s creation of an artificial reef with concrete blocks, which Spanish fishermen say blocks their access to certain waters, has prompted Spain to toughen its border checks, leading to long queues for workers and tourists entering Gibraltar. Spain claims the territory, population just 30,000, which it ceded to Britain by treaty 300 years ago.
Spain has threatened to charge tourists a 50-euro levy to cross the border into Gibraltar, restrict access to Spanish airspace, or block the region’s ship-fuelling business. Spanish commercial fishing by Gibraltar has led to multiple spats, and could foment a period of tense relations between the two nations.
Nota Bene: Al Qaeda is planning attacks on high-speed trains in Europe, a German newspaper reports.
Solid rain - Powdered water could help eliminate droughts. (BBC)
Fiery dome - A NASA satellite shows the intensity of Shanghai’s heat wave. (The Atlantic Cities)
Bad kitty - The British owners of a literal cat burglar attempt to return stolen goods. (The Guardian)
Kissidence - Female Russian athletes kiss during an awards ceremony to protest the country’s anti-gay laws. (Sky News)
Diamond demand - Sotheby’s acknowledges Hong Kong’s demand for luxury goods. (The New York Times)
Check out more from World Wrap at Reuters dot com.
The army deployed dozens of armored vehicles on major roads in Cairo on Friday, and the Interior Ministry has said police will use live ammunition against anyone threatening state installations.
PHOTO: Supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi shout slogans during a protest outside Al-Fath Mosque in Ramses Square, in Cairo August 16, 2013. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal
More than 200 people are dead and thousands more wounded in political violence between supporters of ousted President Mursi and Egyptian security forces.
Photo: Sudanese and Egyptian Islamist pro-Mursi supporters pray in front of the Egyptian embassy in Khartoum, Sudan on August 14, 2013. REUTERS/ Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah