The World Today for March 25, 2016
March 25, 2016
NEED TO KNOW
Fighting Terror: Glass Half Full
Sometimes, it's just easier to look at the positive side first.
That's because in the fight against Islamic State (IS), there’s both good news and bad.
For example, France foiled a terror plot “at an advanced stage” in a Paris suburb late Thursday, and Belgium arrested six suspects in the Tuesday bombings that killed 31 people and wounded nearly 300 in Brussels.
But counterterrorism experts now recognize that IS terror cells are more organized and better trained than previously believed, while the effort to track and stop them is full of holes. Especially in Belgium, it seems.
French police arrested an unnamed French national suspected to be planning a bombing “at a high level” on Thursday, and a subsequent search by France’s counterterrorism agency discovered explosives stored in the man’s house in the Parisian suburb of Argenteuil. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said late Thursday there is no “tangible evidence” yet to link the foiled plot to the Nov. 13 Paris attacks or Tuesday’s bombings in Brussels.
It’s tempting to jump to that conclusion. But France has arrested 75 people linked to terrorist activities this year, opening formal investigations and filing preliminary charges against 37 of them, Cazeneuve said. He didn’t say whether the authorities have found evidence of a formal connection to IS, though he said the suspect was connected to a terrorist network.
Meanwhile, Belgian police arrested six people in connection with Tuesday’s bombings in Brussels late Thursday night. So far, it’s not known whether any of those arrested are the two bombers police have been seeking – one from the airport and one from the metro attack — that are believed to have survived the blasts.
Even while those operations were underway, Belgium’s justice minister and interior minister offered their resignations due to serious lapses leading up to Tuesday’s attacks.
Their resignations were refused. But the lapses are pretty damning.
Ibrahim El Bakraoui, one of the suicide bombers, had been deported from Turkey to the Netherlands in July. But the Turks neglected to inform the Dutch they were turfing out a suspect until after El Bakraoui’s plane landed at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, Dutch justice minister Ard van der Steur said on Thursday. While Turkey claimed that El Bakraoui was a known suspect – with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan saying “Belgium ignored our warning that this person is a foreign fighter” — van der Steur said he was not on watch lists in Belgium, Germany OR Turkey.
Obviously, wires got crossed somewhere.
US officials are most likely betting it was in Belgium. One US official says he was given the brush off when he sought to meet Belgian counterparts after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks. Others say the fight against IS in Belgium has been hamstrung by Brussels’ reluctance to share intelligence. But Guy Rapaille, who heads up parliamentary oversight of Belgium’s security and intelligence services, suggested that criticism cuts both ways. “You have to remember that big powers guard their intelligence very closely,” he told Belgian TV.
That could be why Brussels seemingly remained ignorant about airport bomber Ibrahim El Bakroui and his brother, Khalid, who carried out the metro bombing, though both were on US watch lists, according to an unnamed US official. But the US side says the Belgian agencies are so confusing that they’re not always sure whom to call.
WANT TO KNOW
North Korea Hijinks
North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un has his faults. But he is consistent.
After a month of blowing stuff up and firing off missiles in defiance of UN sanctions, Pyongyang paraded another US spy – naturalized US citizen Kim Dong Chul — before the media. In the usual ritual, he confessed to collaborating with South Korea to bring down the North’s government. The press conference comes nine days after a US tourist was sentenced to 15 years in prison for trying to steal a propaganda banner. But Kim Dong Chul has been detained since October.
On Thursday, North Korea successfully demonstrated a solid-fuel rocket engine that boosted its chances of “mercilessly striking hostile forces,” according to its state-run news agency. And on Friday, the North stepped up the bellicose rhetoric with claims that it’s training troops to attack the Blue House of South Korea’s president.
This time, Kim ordered the troops to be ready so they can “mercilessly pound the reactionary ruling machines in Seoul, the cesspool of evils.”
Consistent? Check. Merciless? Check.
On Syria, Russia, US, Agree to Agree
US Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to Moscow sounded a little short on deliverables.
After a marathon meeting with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin Thursday night, Kerry more or less said that, where Syria is concerned, the US and Russia had agreed to agree. Yes, both parties will try to strengthen the ongoing ceasefire, whatever that means. But they said nothing about what will happen to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – whom Moscow supports but Washington would like to see ousted.
“Russia will have to speak for itself about what it is going to choose to do in order to help Mr. Assad make the right decisions,” Kerry told reporters. “But we agreed today that we will accelerate the effort to try to move the political process forward.”
As opposed to what, exactly, isn’t clear – apart from Russia sending troops back to help Assad. Already, amid the talks, Assad’s troops fought their way into the city of Palmyra on Thursday, presently held by IS, with the aid of Russian air support.
Bosnia: Justice, Finally
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was found guilty of genocide and sentenced to 40 years in prison for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
A three-judge panel presiding over the case at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague said Karadzic was the “sole person” with the power to stop the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men in Srebrenica. But instead he “ordered they be transferred elsewhere to be killed.”
Known as “the Butcher of Bosnia,” Karadzic was first charged with war crimes more than 20 years ago, and spent 11 years on the run before he was finally arrested in 2008. Though he’s the highest ranking official yet to be convicted for war crimes associated with the Bosnian war, and the conviction is the most serious to be handed down since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg, families of the victims were disappointed that the judges stopped short of awarding a life sentence.
Excluding time already served, he may do only 19 years – one for every 400 people killed in Srebrenica.
Put Down That Fork
You don’t have to go full-on vegan. Just cut your meat consumption in half.
No big deal, right? Assuming everybody plays along, by 2050 the dietary change would cut greenhouse gas emissions from food by a third, according to Oxford University researchers. Considering that food production and processing currently account for a quarter of all greenhouse gases, that’s no drop in the bucket.
Eating less meat would also save 5.1 million lives per year through reduced heart disease, cancer, stroke, and other diet-related illnesses.
That’s all for now.
As my favorite hometown Detroit DJ used to roar: It’s the WEEEEEEEKEEEEEENNNNNNNNND! Have a good one, readers.
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— Compiled and written by Jason Overdorf
Fri, 03/25/2016 – 05:55