Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Jane Chong
Monday, July 14, 2014, 11:22 AM

According to the Wall Street Journal, the "convergence of security crises" from the Middle East to the South China Sea marks a "breadth of global instability" unseen since the late 1970s. And on that note, we plunge into weekend world developments:

The Associated Press reports that thousands of Palestinian residents of the northern Gaza Strip fled their homes on Sunday, in the wake of warnings from the Israeli military about plans to bomb the area. On Monday, and using a U.S.-supplied Patriot missile, Israel shot down a Hamas drone which was circling a city in southern Israel; the Washington Post has details.

Reuters reports that on Sunday, Russia threatened Ukraine with "irreversible consequences" after a Russian man was killed by a shell, the first fatality on Moscow's side of the border.

On Sunday, American and Afghan officials confirmed that in the wake of Afghanistan's election crisis, the sides have agreed to alter the government's power structure. From the New York Times:

The candidate who is declared president after a complete vote audit in the coming weeks would then appoint either the loser, or that candidate’s nominee, to become a “chief executive” for the government, with powers to be agreed on later. Then, in the following two or three years, the Constitution would be amended to create a parliamentary democracy with a prime minister as head of government and a president as the head of state.

The Times summarizes a classified military assessment of Iraq's security forces.  The latter document concludes that Sunni extremist informants and Iran-backed Shiite personnel have so deeply infiltrated Iraq's operational units that Americans assigned to advise Baghdad's forces could be at risk. And Vali Nasr has an op-ed in the Times calling for the United States to bring its diplomatic powers to bear on the crisis in Iraq. He writes,

Americans alone have the ability to bring together all the stakeholders to end the fighting. Once we take on that role, the cooperation of the three regional powers would be not only useful, but essential.

On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Vienna to try to rescue nuclear negotiations with Iran. The Times describes the talks as three-part, with the G6 struggling to strike a deal with Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister; Zarif attempting to come to terms with Ayatollah Khamenei and the generals of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps; and President Obama struggling with members of Congress who are pushing for tougher sanctions and more pressure. The AP notes that Kerry is scheduled to hold in-depth discussions with Zarif today in an effort to assess "Iran's willingness to make the critical choices it needs to make."

On Sunday, Attorney General Eric Holder told ABC's "This Week" that intelligence suggesting that bomb-makers from Yemen and terrorists from Syria are combining forces to create undetectable explosive devices is "more frightening than anything I think I've seen as attorney general."

Calling Britain's policy towards the Bashar al-Assad regime "stupid," Syria's deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, declared that the Brits should apologize for supporting rebel forces and work with al-Assad to combat terrorism. Here's the GuardianThe Guardian also says that Prime Minister David Cameron faces "acute embarrassment" for allowing a Russian state-owned arms firm that supplied weapons to the Syrian regime to exhibit fighter jets at Britain's biggest air show this week.

Seven people have been killed and another 36 wounded as rival militias continue to battle for control of Libya's main airport in Tripoli. Al Jazeera reports that in response to the violence, the U.N. has relocated some of its international staff outside of Libya.

In an exclusive seven-hour interview with the Guardian, to be published later this week, Edward Snowden criticized the new surveillance bill being pushed through the UK's parliament. Teaser: "So what's extraordinary about this law being passed in the UK is that it very closely mirrors the Protect America Act 2007 that was passed in the United States at the request of the National Security Agency, after the warrantless wire-tapping programme, which was unlawful and unconstitutional, was revealed."

On Monday North Korea fired artillery shells into waters near the maritime border it shares with South Korea, the latest developments in what the AP describes as North Korea's "unusually large" number of recent missile and rocket tests.

Bloomberg reports that China's state-owned media is claiming that the iPhone's location-tracking function could compromise Chinese state secrets.

The Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jet is America's newest warplane. An entire fleet of those planes was grounded following a massive engine failure on one plane last month. Yesterday, Defense Undersecretary Frank Kendall explained that the failure appears to have been caused by "excessive" rubbing of fan blades, not a fundamental design flaw. Reuters reports.

Possibly coming soon to an airport near you: the Qylatron Entry Experience Solution, designed to reinvent the security check and already tested on World Cup fans in Curitiba, Brazil. Wired's "Danger Room" explains:

Qylur isn’t keen on explaining how the technology works, but we know it has radiation and chemical sensors to pick out explosives. With a multi-view X-ray, it matches the shapes of objects it sees against a large, pre-programmed library of images to pick out prohibited items like guns and knives.

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