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Violence Erupts at Al-Aqsa Mosque One Day After Ceasefire

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Palestinians had gathered at the mosque to celebrate the ceasefire, but Israeli officials claim that it had turned into a riot when young demonstrators began throwing rocks at police.


Provocations at Al-Aqsa

Celebrations over Thursday’s ceasefire between Hamas and Israel turned violent on Friday after Israeli security forces stormed the al-Aqsa mosque complex, claiming the actions were necessary after the crowd turned into a riot and attacked security personnel with stones.

The crowd, reported to be upwards of 100,000 people, first appeared at al-Aqsa at around 2 a.m. to celebrate the ceasefire’s announcement. However, by early morning, Israeli police scene stormed the compound after groups of hundreds allegedly threw stones at them. During the events, CNN reported that its journalists were called “liars” by security forces after showing their press passes. They were allegedly hit with batons and had rifles pointed at them.

According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, a group similar to the Red Cross, 20 people were injured in the clashes and two were taken to the hospital. No deaths were reported.

The clashes will likely prove to be extremely provocative. Before agreeing to the unconditional ceasefire brokered by Egypt, Hamas originally said they would only agree to a ceasefire if Israel stopped all police actions at al-Aqsa mosque in perpetuity, as well as Palestinian evictions in Sheikh Jarrah. While Israel’s actions don’t formally violate any ceasefire conditions, the act was extremely provocative; although it’s unclear if Hamas will reignite the conflict over it as shortly after the ceasefire the group declared victory in the struggle.

Adding to pressures for Hamas to stop any fighting is Gaza’s current state. The de-facto city-state has largely been ruined by Israel’s bombardment campaign, with hundreds of buildings destroyed and miles of roads rendered useless by the campaign to take down Hamas’ tunnel network. The city, which was already notoriously impoverished because of economic restrictions in place in an attempt to starve Hamas of money, now faces an even longer and more expensive road to recovery.

Long Road To Recovery

Internationally, nations and groups have promised aid to the city. Ireland vowed to send $1.5 million for rebuilding efforts, Germany promised tens of millions more, while the U.S. has also promised to help fund projects. America’s money; however, will not be sent directly to Gaza. On Thursday, President Joe Biden said he was ready “to work with the United Nations and other international stakeholders to provide rapid humanitarian assistance and to marshal international support for the people of Gaza and the Gaza reconstruction efforts.”

“We will do this in full partnership with the Palestinian Authority, not Hamas, the Authority, in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal,” Biden added.

But that may be easier said than done. During the celebrations at al-Aqsa mosque, tens of thousands chanted “the people demand the overthrow of the president,” a reference to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas’ main political rivals in Palestine are Hamas, and the conflict with Israel has seemingly bolstered their support among Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank.

Before the conflict and Hamas resurgence as a political rival, Abbas was already in a political quagmire after delaying the first parliamentary elections in 15 years in an attempt to extend the status quo of his Fatah movement governing the West Bank and Hamas controlling Gaza.

See what others said: (Insider) (Axios) (CNN)

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Apple and Google Remove Navalny Voting App as Russian Elections Kick-Off

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The decisions from Apple and Google, which followed weeks of pressure from the Kremlin, mark a continuation in the war between Western tech companies and authoritarian governments.


Voting App Removed From App Stores

Apple and Google removed a tactical voting app designed by allies of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny from their app stores Friday, bowing to pressure from the Kremlin the same day voting began for the country’s parliamentary elections.

The Smart Voting app aimed to direct opposition voters in each of the country’s 225 districts to select whichever candidate was most likely to defeat competitors from President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party.

Removal of the app comes as part of the Kremlin’s broader crackdown on the work and allies of Navalny, who was given a prison sentence of two and a half years in February for violating parole for a previous conviction widely believed to be politically motivated.

Russian authorities banned the app in June when the government outlawed Navalny’s movement as an extremist organization.

For weeks, the Russian censorship agency, Roskomnadzor, threatened to fine Apple and Google if they did not remove the app, arguing it was illegal and accusing the two of election interference.

People familiar with the matter told reporters that the tech companies complied with the request after Russian officials threatened to prosecute their employees based in the country.

Response and Backlash

Kremlin authorities welcomed the companies’ decision, which they painted as necessary legal compliance.

“They have met the lawful demands,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Friday. “This application is prohibited in the territory of our country. Both platforms received relevant notices and it seems they have made the decision consistent with the letter and the spirit of the law.”

Navalny’s allies and digital rights activists condemned Google and Apple for kowtowing to the demands of an authoritarian regime.

“Removing the Navalny app from stores is a shameful act of political censorship,” Ivan Zhdanov, a Navalny aide wrote on Twitter. “Russia’s authoritarian government and propaganda will be thrilled.”

Natalia Krapiva, a digital rights attorney with the Internet freedom group Access Now, told reporters that while it was clear Apple and Google “took this decision under pressure,” the tech companies still “owe the Russian people an explanation.”

Friday’s removals, she argued, have little precedent.

“This is really a new phenomenon to go after the app stores,” Krapiva noted.

Broader Crackdowns on Tech Companies

The move marks a continued escalation in the battle between authoritarian governments and American tech companies fighting to keep their services accessible.

In Russia, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok have faced throttling and fines in recent weeks for failing to remove calls for protests and other posts expressing dissent that the Kremlin claims are illegal.

In countries like India, Myanmar, and Turkey, authorities have increasingly pressured companies to censor political speech. Last year, Turkey passed a law that gives authorities more power to regulate social media companies. 

The Indian government is also currently in a standoff with Twitter over accusations the company has failed to comply with new internet regulations that experts say limit online speech and privacy.

Now, experts worry Google and Apple’s decision to remove Navalny’s app could encourage Russia and other authoritarian regimes to pressure tech companies by threatening to prosecute their employees.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press)

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Denmark Moves To Bar Life Prisoners From Starting New Romantic Relationships After Peter Madsen Controversy

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While behind bars, the convicted murderer pursued relationships with female admirers, including a 17-year-old girl and a 39-year-old Russian artist who he married in 2020.


Legislation Proposed

Denmark’s government proposed a draft law this week aimed at preventing prison inmates serving life sentences from forming new romantic relationships behind bars. 

If passed, the proposed bill would specifically limit correspondence and visitation rights during the first 10 years of detention to people the prisoner knew before incarceration. It would also ban prisoners from sharing details about their criminal activities on social media or on podcasts. 

Demands for such legislation stemmed from public frustration over Danish inventor Peter Madsen, a 49-year-old who was convicted in 2018 for the 2017 murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall. According to prosecutors, Madsen sexually assaulted Wall while she was on board his submarine for an interview. He then dismembered her body before the submarine sank in what police said might have been an attempt to destroy evidence.

While incarcerated, Madsen reportedly pursued relationships with female admirers, including a 17-year-old girl named Cammilla Kürstein. Kürstein has admitted that she fell in love with Madsen after exchanging letters and talking on the phone with him over the course of two years.

However, she became jealous in 2020 when he ultimately married 39-year-old Jenny Curpen, a Russian artist living in self-imposed exile in Finland. Curpen has said her communication and visits with Madsen also began in 2018.

What Comes Next?

While Madsen has earned particular heat for pursuing new romance behind bars, he is far from the only incarcerated person to do so.

“We have seen distasteful examples in recent years of prisoners who have committed vile crimes contacting young people in order to gain their sympathy and attention,” Justice Minister Nick Hækkerup said when speaking of the bill.

“This must obviously be stopped,” he continued, arguing that jail should not serve as “dating centres or media platforms to brag about crimes.”

Denmark’s right-wing opposition in parliament has already signaled support for the bill, which was sent to the committee stage on Wednesday. If approved, it is expected to go into effect in January of next year.

Still, human rights experts said they expect challenges to the law. For example, Elo Rytter, of the University of Copenhagen, told the BT newspaper that it would “interfere with prisoners’ right to a private life.” She also said outlawing public statements might “raise questions about censorship.”

See what others are saying:(The Guardian)(The Washington Post)(BBC)

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World Anti-Doping Agency Will Review Cannabis Ban Following Sha’Carri Richardson’s Suspension

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Any changes that stem from the review will not take effect until 2023.


Cannabis Ban for Athletes Under Review

The World Anti-Doping Agency announced Tuesday that it will review whether cannabis should stay on its list of prohibited substances.

The move comes three months after the agency’s policies notably prevented U.S. sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson from competing at the Tokyo Olympics.

In July, Richardson was given a 30 days suspension and stripped of her 100-meter win at the U.S. Olympics Trials when THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, was detected in her system. At the time, Richardson admitted that she used marijuana in Oregon, where it is legal, after learning that her biological mother had died.

The runner was ultimately met with an outpouring of support from people who argued that the drug is not a performance enhancer and is legal or decriminalized in multiple U.S. states, as well as in countries around the world.

The anti-doping agency did not specifically mention Richardson in its announcement, but it did say the plan is a response to “requests from a number of stakeholders” in international athletics.

It also said that cannabis will remain banned in 2022, and any changes that stem from the review will not take effect until the following year.

See what others are saying: (NPR)(CBS)(The Hill)

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