Asier is someone with amazing human qualities, that’s why he’s my friend. I adore him. But it’s not a portrait that is deliberately kind to him — that would have meant defending [terrorism]. Instead, this is a defense of friendship.
Jay Directo/AFP/Getty Images
Say what you like about the NSA, it’s an equal-opportunities bugger. Not wanting to leave anyone out, the US intelligence agency has — it’s alleged — been monitoring tens of millions of Spain’s telephone calls, in addition to millions of lines in France and one very special cell in Germany. According to documents leaked by Edward Snowden and revealed in the Spanish press today, US agents collected caller information from more than 60 million phone conversations in one month alone.
Madrid has summoned the US ambassador to Spain to hear a protest. And later today, the European Union will take its complaints all the way to Washington: envoys from the European parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee are due to meet members of Congress to find out just what’s going on, and how far Europeans’ privacy has been and continues to be compromised.
Whatever happened in Tiananmen Square? No, not…then. We’re talking about today around noon, when a jeep ploughed into the crowd that habitually fills China’s most iconic square. The vehicle crashed and burned, its driver and two passengers died, and 11 bystanders were injured — all under the watchful eyes of Mao Zedong.
Before you could say “Forbidden City,” in swept the authorities to cordon off the scene. The square was evacuated, surrounding streets were closed, screens erected to shield the wreck from prying cameras, and foreign journalists reported being forcibly detained as they attempted to approach. Official accounts say only that the cause of the crash is being investigated; but Beijing’s tight-lipped response has only fuelled Chinese netizens’ speculation that Tiananmen has just witnessed a suicidal protest, or even a terrorist attack.
Brits don’t need an excuse to talk about the weather. But sometimes there’s more to say than usual, and never more so than today, when the UK is in the grip of its most severe storm in years. At least two people have been killed by falling trees, while more than 200,000 homes are without power and public transport is suspended across much of southern England. (Less troublingly for the general populace, a crane also collapsed on top of the Cabinet Office in London. No press conference today, minister? Shame.)
Forecasters say the worst — including the 99-mile-per-hour wind — is over. But the flood warnings still in place, the gale damage, power cuts and ongoing travel chaos mean that Brits will have plenty to talk about for days yet.
FARC-ing hell. A US Army veteran is set to return to the States after four months held captive by the FARC, Colombia’s kidnap-happy rebel guerrillas. Former private Kevin Scott Sutay was freed yesterday after international efforts to secure his release from the depths of the rebel-held jungle.
But how did he get there in the first place? Well, against everyone else’s advice — he walked right in. Some of those who warned him not to explain to GlobalPost how an Afghan war vet fell into the FARC’s hands.
Walk on the other side. Farewell then, Lou Reed, who died yesterday at the age of 71. Seventy-one! And they said he’d never make it past 50.
The singer had survived years of substance abuse and many months of liver trouble, but ultimately succumbed to his health problems on Sunday morning (aptly enough). Because what’s rock’n’roll without sex and drugs? And what, for that matter, is rock’n’roll without the Velvet Underground? Here are the internet’s tributes to one of the greats.
The weirdest zoo exhibit you’ll see today. Promise.We’ve heard about strange goings-on at zoos before. Dogs being passed off as lions, and so forth. But this one really does take the (doggie) biscuit. At Pakistan’s Karachi Zoo, the main attraction isn’t an animal — it’s a half-woman, half-fox chimera named Mumtaz Mumtal.
Even the least observant of visitors will soon spot that Mumtaz the Fox-Woman is neither fox nor woman, but that hasn’t stopped hordes of zoo-goers handing over their rupees to have her read their fortunes. (What, did we forget to mention? She also has the power of clairvoyance. Obviously.) Sure, her make-up may be dodgy and there’s a funny smell coming from her furry bits, but here’s why so many Karachiites are desperate to know: What does the fox lady say?
BRUSSELS, Belgium — More than 15,000 people have died in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea since the late 1990s after fleeing poverty, war and oppression in Africa, Asia and the Middle East for a better life in Europe.
Now routine, the deaths rarely make international headlines.
Campaigners complain Europeans preoccupied with their economic crisis, and fearful of migrants competing for ever-scarcer job opportunities and social security handouts, have become indifferent, even hostile, to the migrants’ plight.
The scale of Thursday’s tragedy off the Italian island of Lampedusa could change that.
Pope Francis denounced as a “disgrace” the death of up to 300 Africans after their boat caught fire and sank. Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano, who spoke of a “European tragedy,” has appealed for assistance. Newspaper headlines across the continent are demanding action.
"The tragedy of Lampedusa’s refugees shames Europe," said Spain’s El Pais. "Lampedusa: the guilt of Europe’s indifference," headlined the front page of Le Monde in France.
Photo by AFP/Getty Images
BRUSSELS, Belgium — Wherever one looked in Europe this summer, there was bad news for the Roma people — the gypsies — and it’s prompting concern that hardening attitudes are making life more difficult for some of the continent’s most disadvantaged people.
In the Slovak city of Kosice — chosen as a European capital of culture this year — residents erected a 6-foot wall to segregate a Roma neighborhood.
August saw police battle with hundreds of far-right protesters who tried to storm Roma districts in towns across the Czech Republic.
Three men were sentenced for life in Hungary for a string of racist attacks that killed six Roma, including a 5-year-old boy.
At the height of the Italian summer, the authorities cut the water supply to a camp of 300 Roma near Turin. And a report in Spain showed the economic crisis hitting the Roma there disproportionately hard, with two-thirds now living below the poverty line.
In France, Gilles Bourdouleix, a member of parliament and mayor of the town of Cholet, was forced to resign from his center-right party after reportedly muttering that “maybe Hitler didn’t kill enough” during a visit to a Roma settlement.
Photos via AFP/Getty Images
BARCELONA, Spain — People in Catalonia are gathering today to form 250-mile human chain across this Spanish region in the latest push to form an independent state.
At least 400,000 people are expected to take part on Catalonia’s national day.
On Tuesday evening, a crowd walked slowly through the narrow streets around Sants, a neighborhood west of Barcelona, singing, “In, inde, independencia.” Many waved torches or carried the starry esteldada, the flag favored by supporters of Catalan independence.
“We don’t feel respected about our language and our way of life,” said Jemina Albesa, a housewife who was among the pro-independence marchers.
PHOTOS by AFP/Getty Images
NEED TO KNOW
The incredible shrinking Muslim Brotherhood. It’s looking mighty lonely on the upper rungs of the Egypt’s defiant Islamist movement, after security forces today arrested one of the few remaining senior leaders not already in jail. Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s “general guide” and spiritual leader, was taken into custody in Cairo early this morning, where he joins scores of Brothers and other Islamists detained since the military deposed President Mohamed Morsi, a month and a half ago.
The Brotherhood, however, has already appointed Badie’s replacement — just one of the signs that the movement has no intention of doing anything less than digging in for the fight. Follow where that gets it with the military via our live blog. And as the two sides trade accusations, here’s one Cairo resident’s account of what Egypt’s chaos looks like from the ground.
Who killed Benazir Bhutto? He may not have pulled the trigger, but according to Pakistani prosecutors, Pervez Musharraf is ultimately responsible for the former prime minister’s death. A court today charged Musharraf, the former army chief who once ruled at the head of a military government, with murder for failing to prevent the attack on a 2007 campaign rally that left then opposition leader Bhutto dead.
Musharraf denies all charges. He and six other defendants will be back in court next week, in a case that is sure to test just how powerful Pakistan’s once all mighty military still remains.
WANT TO KNOW
All the news that’s fit to smash. Fresh from the revelation that counterterrorist police detained one of its journalist’s partners, the Guardian newspaper has disclosed yet more sinister goings-on related to its coverage of the US and UK governments’ secret surveillance programs. None too pleased by the broadsheet printing Edward Snowden’s leaks, its editor-in-chief claims, the UK’s intelligence service sent its heavies round to force Guardian employees to destroy all documents and hard drives containing information on the story.
Have they never heard of cloud storage, you might well wonder? As the Guardian’s editor says, the government’s actions won’t keep the paper from publishing its sources’ revelations, they might just have to do it from elsewhere. The internet always finds a way — and the madder you make it, the harder it’ll hit back.
The Rock and rollers. After years of relative calm, the 300-year dispute between Britain and Spain over who owns Gibraltar is flaring up once more. The British terrority’s plan to create an artificial reef off its shores has Spanish fishermen complaining, Madrid imposing restrictive new controls on the frontier, Britain sending warships, and both sides threatening worse.
Local residents on both sides of the border are suffering. GlobalPost reports from the town of La Linea de la Concepcion, where residents find themselves between The Rock and a hard place.
STRANGE BUT TRUE
Horn of rhino and, er, horn of tiger. No witch’s recipe these, but just two of the modern vices of China’s nouveaux riches. The country’s newly-minted millionaires are second to none in their unusual tastes. In need of spiritual guidance? Hire a qigong master. Want to flash your cash? Encase your Ferrari in gold. Fast-paced lifestyle leaving you weary? Gobble some dead animal parts.
Here’s GlobalPost’s guide to six vices of the Chinese rich and infamous. Whoever said money can’t buy you a dried tiger penis?
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A bad day to be in Baghdad. A series of car bombs in and around Iraq’s capital have killed at least 29 people. A dozen more were killed in attacks in the south of the country, making more than 50 deaths today in total — and that was by 2 p.m.
The bombings appeared to target predominantly Shia areas, suggesting that they’re the latest instance of the bloody sectarian violence that has killed hundreds of Iraqis this year alone. How Iraq come to this? Well, it had some help. Here’s the path to failure in 49 simple steps — unfortunately, the route back isn’t nearly so easy to map.
Italian bus disaster. At least 38 people are dead after a bus careened off a highway in southern Italy and into a ravine. The bus was bringing pilgrims back from a visit to a Catholic shrine yesterday evening when, for reasons that aren’t yet clear, it veered off the overpass and plunged almost 100 feet. Emergency services have spent the night searching for passengers, surrounded by a growing line of coffins.
It’s already been confirmed as Italy’s worst road accident in decades. Coming just days after Spain’s deadliest rail disaster for 40 years, it’s enough to make Europeans want to stay at home.
WANT TO KNOW
The Israelis and the Palestinians are talking again. At least they will be, and at least officially: the first direct Middle East peace talks in three years are due to begin this evening in Washington, DC, hosted by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
The meeting is the culmination of months of diplomatizing by Kerry — who by now knows the interiors of the region’s airports better than anyone — and it took Israel reluctantly agreeing, yesterday, to release more than 100 Palestinian prisoners to finally get a rendezvous confirmed. When it’s this hard to get two sides to sit at a negotiating table, don’t expect a breakthrough when they do.
Cambodia’s election kerfuffle. Cambodian opposition leaders have rejected the results of yesterday’s election, citing serious irregularities in the vote that returned the ruling party to power. Sam Rainsy’s Cambodia National Rescue Party alleges that as many as 15 percent of voters were unable to cast their ballot due to “ghost names,” duplicated entries and other suspicious occurrences.
For many observers, the surprise wasn’t that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodia People’s Party won yet again — it was that it did it by such a small margin, just 68 seats to the opposition’s 55. Fresh from his party’s best showing in years, Rainsy says he’s not satisfied with anything less than “justice.”
STRANGE BUT TRUE
The sound of color. How do you experience color if your world’s in black and white? For artist Neil Harbisson, born totally colorblind, the answer has come in the form in of an “eyeborg”: a sensor attached to a chip attached to his head, which detects colors and converts them into sounds that it then transmits to his ears.
Harbisson is keen for others to extend their senses, too — even if they can already see color the old-fashioned way. Watch — and hear — GlobalPost’s video about his invention for a truly multisensory experience.
Francisco Garzon, son of a railway worker, and the driver of the train that crashed at high speed in one of Spain’s worst railway accidents, grew up around trains and spent his whole life working with them.
Top photos from the past 24 hours.
78 people have died after the train jackknifed into a concrete wall on Wednesday a few kilometers before the station in Santiago de Compostela, a pilgrim destination and capital of the northwestern region of Galicia.
Was recklessness to blame for the train crash?
Photo: Francisco Jose Garzon is helped by a policeman after a train crashed near Santiago de Compostela, northwestern Spain, July 24, 2013. REUTERS/Oscar Corral
"Let’s hope they find out what happened and the reasons for it," said Mar Nogueira as she watched emergency teams work at the accident site from a nearby bridge. “This mustn’t happen again — here or anywhere else.”
NEED TO KNOW
Mohamed Morsi the spy. Egypt’s army is detaining the deposed president on suspicion of conspiring with Hamas during the 2011 revolution, according to a judiciary order. In the first official justification for why the military continues to hold Morsi, more than three weeks after it removed him from power, he is accused of colluding with the Palestinian militants to carry out “anti-state attacks” on police stations and jails. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood has called the charges “ridiculous.”
Morsi’s supporters are expected to take to the streets again today, where they’ll be met by those among their opponents who have heeded the army’s call for counter-protests. General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, the shades-wearing head of the armed forces, has urged Egyptians to rally against “terrorism” — a move the Brotherhood has taken as a threat. Egyptians warn: “There are bloody days ahead.”
WANT TO KNOW
A Spanish tragedy. The government has declared three days of national mourning for the 80 people now confirmed to have died in Spain’s worst rail disaster in decades. As grieving relatives and condoling dignitaries descend on Santiago de Compostela, the historic city is in shock: “It’s like the worst film you can imagine,” one resident told GlobalPost.
And every film needs its villain. In this case it looks set to be the train’s driver, who is currently under police guard in hospital amid reports that he slammed the train round a curve at more than double the legal speed. Francisco Jose Garzon Amo had even reportedly boasted in the past about speeding at more than 120 miles per hour. A judge has placed him under formal investigation.
George Zimmerman “got away with murder.” Protesters have been saying it for weeks, but it might not reassure them to learn that one of his jurors thinks so too.
One member of the six-woman panel has told interviewers that “in our hearts we felt [Zimmermann] was guilty” of murdering Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teenager he shot dead in what he argued was self-defense. But according to Florida’s notoriously broad defense laws, “Juror B29” says, there was no way they could convict him. “George Zimmerman got away with murder,” she said, “but you can’t get away from God.”
Royal flush. It’s been a big week for monarchs. And for every royalist who bought a “Prince George” commemorative teacup, there’s at least as many republicans calling for the world’s remaining monarchies to ditch their blue-blooded baggage.
Yet the world’s kings, queens, emperors, emirs, grand dukes, princes and sultans have some thoroughly hard-edged modern statistics on their side, suggesting a global shout of “vive la republique” might be premature. GlobalPost investigates whether monarchies are really the world’s richest, happiest and most democratic states.
STRANGE BUT TRUE
What do you get when you cross a donkey with a zebra? Only a zonkey, the sweetest, stripiest little horse hybrid there is. The newest addition to the herd is Ippo, a foal born to a rare breed of donkey and her zebra paramour in an Italian animal reserve.
And before anyone grumbles about science messing with things it shouldn’t, rest assured that Ippo was born out of love: papa zebra — a former circus performer — was so smitten with the elegant donkey next door that he clambered over the fence into her stall before keepers could do anything to stop him. It’s just like Lady and the Tramp, only with slightly less spaghetti.