The World Today for July 06, 2016

July 6, 2016

NEED TO KNOW

Hair shirts for spies


Medieval penitents used to suffer in itchy hair shirts as a way to atone for their sins.

The world’s intelligence agencies could use some discomfort of their own.

On Wednesday, the British government is expected to release the Chilcot report, an investigation into the causes of the Second Iraq War, NBC News reported. Seven years in the making and 2.6 million words long, the report is expected to be highly critical of former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s rationale for war. It is also likely to allege that British troops used torture and committed other abuses contrary to international law during the conflict.

But the Chilcot report is only the latest in a long string of embarrassments for intelligence services worldwide.

On Tuesday, French officials released an investigation into why their intelligence services didn’t avert the terror attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and on the Bataclan music hall and other social venues throughout Paris in January and November 2015, respectively.

“Our intelligence services have failed,” Buzzfeed quoted Georges Fenech, who led the investigation, as saying. “All, I say all of them, the attackers of the Bataclan (music hall), those of Charlie Hebdo, those of the Hyper-Kosher (store) … and others were all on the radar of our services.”

The report noted that the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center had around 1,200 agents, while its French counterpart had eight. The lack of personnel helped jihadists slip through surveillance even as they went in and out of jail.

It turns out Turkish intelligence units warned Ankara about potential Islamic State attacks before the bombing at the Istanbul airport in late June, too, Hurriyet Daily News reported.

Of course, Americans can’t forget how ex-President George W. Bush received the “Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US” memo in August 2001, a month before the September 11 terror attacks.

That’s a line of failures that dates back 15 years.

The author of the Chilcot report, Sir John Chilcot, told the BBC that he hoped his findings would prevent Britain from launching another invasion-cum-fiasco.

“The main expectation that I have is that it will not be possible in the future to engage in a military or indeed a diplomatic endeavor on such a scale and of such gravity without really careful analysis and assessment and collective political judgment being applied to it,” said Chilcot.

Admonitions to be “really careful” seem hollow. But they might be the best anyone can expect.

WANT TO KNOW

And now, Yemen


Six Yemeni troops were killed and dozens more injured Wednesday when two suicide bombers exploded their cars at a military base in the southern port city of Aden.

After the explosions, nearly two dozen militants launched an attack on the base. Gun battles at the military base were still taking place throughout Wednesday as military reinforcements arrived, security officials said.

Islamic militants have gained a foothold in Yemen over the past year thanks to the ongoing civil war between the government and Shiite Houthi rebels. Security officials in Yemen believe there is some overlap in membership between al Qaeda and Islamic State (IS), although the two groups are ideological rivals and compete for recruits.

Wednesday's attack comes after a wave of bombings and mass killings in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bangladesh and Iraq – all purportedly caused by IS as the holy month of Ramadan ends. A series of IS attacks in Yemen on June 27 resulted in the deaths of 38 people as they prepared to break their Ramadan fast.

Six Years for Blade Runner


South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius, known as Blade Runner, was sentenced to six years in prison Wednesday for the 2013 murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Pistorius was initially convicted of culpable homicide and sentenced to five years in prison. But following an appeal by state prosecutors, he was later convicted of murder, which carries a much stronger sentence in South Africa.

The South African state had called for Pistorius to receive no less than the prescribed 15-year minimum sentence for murder. But Judge Thokozile Masipa said there were “substantial and compelling circumstances” for reducing the minimum 15 years during the hearing.

Masipa said that Pistorius's vulnerability on his stumps was one such mitigating factor. The judge also criticized the public misperception that Pistorius intended to kill Steenkamp and said it was the court's duty to correct this view.

“Public opinion may be loud and persistent, but it can play no role in the decision of this court,” she said at the sentencing. “Our courts are courts of law, not courts of public opinion.”

Rio to Visitors: We're Not Perfect


With less than one month to go until the opening ceremony, Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes announced Tuesday that the city will be ready for the 2016 Summer Olympics but that visitors should temper their expectations.

Paes stressed during a press conference with other Olympic officials that recent events and crises in Rio – including widespread strikes, gang shootouts, and the suspension of a drug testing lab for athletes – would not impact the games themselves.

Instead, Paes declared Rio a “transformed city” and pointed to newly completed projects, including a revamped port area and a network of new bus lines. Another official added that preparations for the Olympic sport facilities were complete.

Still, the mayor cautioned that visitors to Rio should not expect perfection, nor should they judge Rio by the standards of cities in the developed world.

“People believe that either the Olympics solved all the problems of Brazil, or that it caused all the problems of Brazil. Neither is correct,” Paes said. “We ask you to compare Rio with Rio.”

DISCOVERIES

More Martian moons


In the distant past, Mars might have had more moons than Phobos and Deimos, the two oddly shaped natural satellites that now orbit the Red Planet.

Scientists have speculated that the 14 and 8-mile-across Martian moons might really be asteroids that somehow fell into the planet’s gravitational pull, The Christian Science Monitor reports.

But in a paper published on Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience, scientists said they now believe that an asteroid or moon might have crashed into Mars, creating debris that later became Phobos and Deimos.

Because Mars’ gravity should have drawn that debris onto its surface, however, the scientists believe there must have been other moons that would have created a gravitational equilibrium that helped Phobos and Deimos fall into the orbits where they exist today.

The discovery of the gravitational dynamics also means that Phobos, the larger of the two moons, is on track to crashing into Mars in around 30 million years.

jbhatti
Wed, 07/06/2016 – 06:23

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