Global Review – 19th July

Leak uncovers global abuse of cyber-surveillance

Several ‘authoritarian’ governments have used Israeli software to spy on the cell phones of journalists, activists and managers around the world. An investigation by the Washington Post and 16 other international newspapers reveals that among the governments that have used it there were that of Hungary and Saudi Arabia. Several heads of state and prime ministers are among the numbers identified so far by the investigation, as having been spied upon.

Questions grow over ‘pilot scheme’ after isolation U-turn

The Guardian says Boris Johnson’s plan to lift England’s remaining lockdown restrictions today was overshadowed by a furious backlash against the prime minister and his chancellor on Sunday, triggering a hasty U-turn and prompting questions about a ‘pilot scheme’ designed to let them avoid isolation. Downing Street was accused of sowing confusion and a sense of “one rule for them” on the eve of so-called “freedom day” by saying Johnson and Rishi Sunak would continue with “essential government business” while having daily rapid tests. They about-turned less than three hours later. Johnson, Sunak and the health secretary, Sajid Javid, are in quarantine as UK’s new infection rates climb to among the highest in the world, behind Indonesia and Brazil, at 55,000.

Two athletes infected with COVID in Tokyo Olympic Village

East Bay Times reports two South African footballers have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Tokyo Olympic Village. The cases are the first reported among athletes at the village. There are 55 positive cases tied to the Tokyo Games, which start Friday and will be the first to be held without spectators. Tokyo reported 1,410 new infections on Saturday, the most since January 21. A survey by the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper showed that 65% of respondents doubt whether Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga can deliver on his promise of “secure” Olympics. Also, 48% said they are in no mood to enjoy the games. Meanwhile, Xinhua News agency reported that China is expected to complete construction work for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics by October.

Europe flood toll rises to 183

Die Welt says flash floods hit southern Germany on Sunday, killing at least one person and adding to the flooding devastation that has claimed the lives of more than 180 people in Europe in recent days. The Berchtesgadener Land district in Bavaria became the latest region to be hit by record rainfall and ensuing floods. Sunday’s incident brought Germany’s death toll to 156 in its worst natural disaster in almost six decades, and the European toll to 183. German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the flooding as “terrifying” and promised “swift” financial aid after visiting one of the areas worst affected by the record rainfall and floods.  In Belgium, which will hold a national day of mourning on Tuesday, 163 people are still missing.

Turkey hits at EU Court of Justice veils

Turkey has criticised the decision by the EU Court of Justice on the possibility of employers banning the Islamic veil or more generally “any visible form of expression of political, philosophical or religious beliefs”. Zaman quotes a statement from the Turkish Foreign Ministry saying this “is a clear violation of religious freedoms” and emphasised that such a measure only aggravates the prejudices against Muslim women in Europe. The ruling referred to the case of two employees of German companies who had faced internal proceedings for wearing the veil at work.

Cartoonist whose Mohammed vignette sparked protests is dead

Danish artist Kurt Westergaard, famous for drawing a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad which sparked violent riots in some Muslim countries, has died at the age of 86. Westergaard died in his sleep after a long illness. The illustrator is the author of the most famous of the 12 drawings published on September 30, 2005 by the Danish conservative newspaper Jyllands-Posten with the title ‘The face of Mohammed’, in which the prophet was represented with a bomb-shaped turban. Cartoon-related violence peaked in 2015 with the attack on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris, which left 12 dead.

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