18 Apr 2014

Turkey's spy agency granted expanded authorities by controversial new law

Turkey's parliament voted Thursday to increase the powers of the National Intelligence Agency (MIT). The controversial new law gives the MIT broader authorities to conduct eavesdropping and foreign operations, and grants immunity to senior operatives. It also sanctions prison terms as punishment for leaking classified information.

erdogan

Critics claim the legislation is as attempt by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to enhance his powers. Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) wields significant influence in parliament and was able to push the legislation through after heated debate.

Opposition parties expressed concern that the empowered MIT would transform Turkey into a surveillance state. Rights group Freedom for Journalists Platform argued that Erdogan was attempting to privatize the intelligence agency for his own use. The expanded spy powers comes as Erdogan and his power have been under investigation in a far-reaching corruption probe that began in December 2013.

More on UPI.com

Al Qaeda Meeting Of Top Brass In Yemen

A video that recently surfaced on Islamist militant Web sites shows a large group of al-Qaeda fighters — including the terrorist network’s second in command — taking part in a brazen open-air gathering, apparently unconcerned about the prospect of being struck by a U.S. drone.

U.S. officials said that the video appeared to be both recent and authentic and that analysts at the CIA and counterterrorism agencies are scrutinizing it for clues to potential plots. The officials declined to say why there had been no U.S. strike or whether U.S. spy agencies were even aware of the gathering before the video emerged.

Washington Post

12 Apr 2014

Acid attacks rising against Colombia's women

At least five people have been attacked with acid in Colombia over the past two weeks. Until now, authorities have done little to address the problem. But a high profile case in the capital Bogota has pushed the government into restricting acid sales, and increase penalties. Al Jazeera's Alessandro Rampietti reports from Bogota.

10 Apr 2014

Secrets of Mata Hari to be revealed as MI5 files on wartime spies go online

Top secret MI5 files on spies from the First World War – including the notorious exotic dancer Mata Hari – will go online today. The database will feature for the first time some of history’s most famous spies and the secrets in which they traded.

mata hari

Among the names detailed in more than 150 digitised dossiers is Dutch-born Hari, tried for causing the deaths of 50,000 soldiers by spying for German intelligence. She was arrested in February 1917 in Paris before being executed in France aged 41. The files contain a detailed account of her interrogation by British police in the same year – in which she gives away nothing. Another MI5 memo, referring to the spy by her real name of Margreet Zelle MacLeod, says their contact in Paris warned the agency of his suspicions.

mata-hari-1917

“He informs us that he has suspected her for some time and pretended to employ her in order, if possible, to obtain definite proof.” Evidence emerged decades later that she did compile reports for the Germans.

The files can be accessed at nationalarchives.gov.uk/first-world-war

Daily Express

Anti-corruption activists on trial in China

A Chinese anti-corruption campaigner has gone on trial in Beijing, according to his lawyer, joining two others who appeared in court this week as China's government cracks down on activists.

Zhao Changqing, 45, faces a possible five-year prison sentence for supporting activists who unveiled banners in Beijing calling for government officials to disclose their assets - despite not being present, Zhang Peihong, his lawyer, said on Thursday. Zhao is associated with the New Citizens Movement, a loose-knit network of campaigners against corruption, among other issues. China jailed a founder of the movement in January, and more than 10 other members have been tried.

Zhao Changqing

Zhao pleaded not guilty to a charge of "gathering a crowd to disrupt public order" for his alleged involvement in three small-scale protests in Beijing, which saw activists unfurl banners, Zhang said. "[Zhao] didn't disturb public order in any way, he didn't even appear on the scene of the protests, because he was worried about his family," he said, adding that the hearing lasted around three hours.

Fellow anti-corruption activists Ding Jiaxi and Li Wei were also put on trial this week over the protests. China's ruling Communist Party is in the midst of a highly-publicised anti-corruption campaign, which President Xi Jinping has pledged will target both high-ranking "tigers" and low-level "flies" in the face of public anger over the issue.

More on Al Jazeera English

8 Apr 2014

Rwanda's Memorial 'Re-Enactment' Of Genocide Leaves Spectators Hysterical With Grief

Weeping and grimacing, dozens of spectators at the Rwandan genocide memorial in Kigali have had to be carried from the stands as the emotional turmoil of the ceremony left many overcome with grief.

rwanda

In disturbing scenes, performers at the Amahoro stadium in Kigal re-enacted events of the 2004 genocide, which resulted in almost a million deaths. Actors dressed in grey and white played dead on the football field, while sorrowful wails and uncontrollable sobs resounded.

Thousands of Rwandans were in the country's main sports stadium on Monday to mark the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the devastating 100-day genocide. Global leaders, past and present, were also in attendance to remember the tragedy in which more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsi and moderate Hutus were slaughtered over an 100 day period, mostly with machetes.

More on the Huff. Post

6 Apr 2014

Atheists Are Terrorists By Definition (According To Saudi Arabia)

"A rash of new laws issued in Saudi Arabia aim to blot out all political dissent — and in one case defines atheists as terrorists. The series of laws began in January of 2014. At the end of last month, Human Rights Watch issued a report explaining that "a series of related royal decrees create a legal framework that appears to criminalize virtually all dissident thought or expression as terrorism."

Read more here from Sarah Gray / Salon

Nirvana Unplugged

Nirvana - MTV Unplugged 1993

5 Apr 2014

The Silly Walks Song

Here's a new music video from the Pythons to accompany their new track - "The Silly Walks Song" - that's been written for, and will be featured in, the upcoming "Monty Python Live (mostly)" shows this July.

Radioactive Wolves Of Chernobyl

4 Apr 2014

Israel cancels Palestinian prisoner release

Israel has announced that it will not release the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners because of renewed Palestinian efforts to join international organisations.

A spokesman for Tzipi Livni, Israel's justice minister and the government's chief negotiator, said on Thursday that the Israeli government had been working to finalise an agreement to free the prisoners when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed letters of accession to 15 international conventions.

More on Al Jazeera English

The Folly of Racism

Public Service Announcement from Plan B Sketch Comedy