Friday, October 12, 2018

Weekly Headlines - 11 Oct 2018

Headlines of note compiled by for 11 Oct 2018. Click on a headline to read more.

Reuters >> Ukraine secured approval on Thursday to establish an independent church in what Kiev says is a vital step against Russian meddling in its affairs, but the Russian clergy fiercely opposes the biggest split in Christianity for a thousand years.

Reuters >> A two-man U.S.-Russian crew of a Soyuz spacecraft bound for the International Space Station was safe following a dramatic emergency landing on Thursday shortly after liftoff in Kazakhstan when their rocket failed in mid-air.

Reuters >> A U.S. Navy warship has docked in the southern Israeli port of Ashdod, the first such visit there in almost 20 years, in what officials from both sides hailed as a sign of their strong ties in the face of shared adversaries like Iran.

Reuters >> Canada made mistakes in its dealings with Saudi Arabia which helped spark a diplomatic dispute, the former Canadian ambassador to Riyadh said in frank remarks on Wednesday.

Reuters >> An Egyptian military court sentenced 17 people to death on Thursday for their involvement in bombing attacks on three churches and a police checkpoint in 2016 and 2017 that killed more than 80 people, the state news agency MENA reported.

Reuters >> British and EU negotiators making headway on the Irish border hope for a Brexit deal breakthrough on Monday, diplomats said, though the British prime minister’s Northern Ireland ally has stoked uncertainty by warning it could vote against her.

Reuters >> Violent and sexual abuse of children by priests and nuns, including beatings with crucifixes and dog leads, took place at two Catholic care homes over decades in Scotland, according to an inquiry report on Thursday. The report, the first chapter of a wider investigation led by Supreme court judge Lady Anne Smith…

Reuters >> Far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro plans to tackle Brazil’s chronic energy shortages head-on by expanding nuclear power and hydroelectric energy despite environmental concerns over the impact of new dams on the Amazon, the retired general devising his infrastructure program told Reuters.  

Reuters >> Nigerian ex-head of state Olusegun Obasanjo backed his former deputy on Thursday for next year’s presidential election, ending a public feud that had threatened to undermine the main opposition candidate.

Reuters >> Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that the demilitarized zone in Syria's Idlib was effective and no major military actions are planned in the region.

AFP >> Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, will be supplying Indian buyers with an additional 4 million barrels of crude oil in November, several sources familiar with the matter said Wednesday. The shows Saudi Arabia’s willingness to make up the shortfall once sanctions by the United States on oil exports from Iran, the third-largest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, start up on Nov. 4.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

World Political History: The Fall of the Berlin Wall

By Andrew Bonnell, Associate Professor of History, The University of Queensland (Source: The Conversation)

This article is part of our series of explainers on key moments in the past 100 years of world political history. In it, our authors examine how and why an event unfolded, its impact at the time, and its relevance to politics today.

Nearly 30 years ago, in the night of November 9-10, 1989, East German border police opened the gates at crossing points in the Berlin Wall, allowing masses of East Berliners to stream through them unhindered.
This started a night of unbridled celebrations as people crossed freely back and forth through the Cold War barrier, climbed on it, and even danced and partied on it.
The signal for the mass breach of the previously heavily guarded wall was a fumbled announcement in a press conference by the Socialist Unity Party (SED) Party chief of Berlin, Günter Schabowski.
His announcement that travel restrictions for East German citizens would be lifted led to the Wall’s transit points being mobbed by thousands of East Germans as they interpreted the announcement to mean immediate freedom of movement to the West.

What happened?

The opening of the Berlin Wall triggered a series of events that led to an unexpectedly rapid unification of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG or West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany) on October 3, 1990.
But to really understand this moment, we need to look at when and why the Berlin Wall was erected in the first place. Following Germany’s defeat in the second world war, the country was split between the victors – the Western Allies’ occupation zones became the Federal Republic in 1949, while the Soviet zone was reconstituted as the German Democratic Republic shortly thereafter.
Germany’s capital, Berlin, was also split down the middle. The wall was erected by the East German leadership in August 1961 to stop the flow of citizens from East to West, completing a sealed border that elsewhere ran along the frontier between the two German states.
The Wall’s opening was the product of two processes that had gathered momentum throughout the second half of 1989: the peaceful demonstrations and protest marches of a number of newly constituted East German civil rights organisations, and the growing number of East German citizens leaving from the GDR’s side doors.
The latter mostly happened through Hungary, which opened its border with Austria in May. Large numbers of East Germans on holidays in Hungary took advantage of the opportunity to migrate to West Germany. By November 1989, the trickle of East Germans leaving had become a flood, with thousands a day going to the West by the week the wall was opened.
Furthermore, the East German SED leadership had been increasingly on the back foot since peaceful demonstrations started, following manipulated local government elections in May 1989.
By the start of October, there were regular Monday night protest marches through Leipzig and other East German cities. Initially, there were fears that the SED leadership might suppress these protests with violence.
The Tiananmen Square protests and subsequent mass killings in Beijing in June 1989 were fresh in the minds of many. But after a large-scale Monday night demonstration in Leipzig was allowed to proceed without armed opposition from the police and security services on October 9, the opposition gained courage and momentum.
A few days before the opening of the Wall, an estimated half a million protesters gathered in East Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, calling for democratic reform of East Germany.
There was, of course, a wider context for these events. By 1989, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, had become convinced of the need to carry out economic reform measures in the Soviet Union. He considered disarmament and a winding down of Cold War confrontation in Europe as necessary preconditions for such reforms.
Unlike previous Soviet leaders, Gorbachev signalled a tolerant attitude to reforms in the member states of the Warsaw Pact, including relaxation of censorship and central control of economic matters.
Indeed, Gorbachev even began to encourage the replacement of older generation communist hardliners with younger reformist leaders. When Gorbachev visited East Berlinfor the official 40th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the GDR on October 7, 1989, he was rapturously welcomed by young demonstrators. They saw his visit as promising reforms that had hitherto been resisted by the ageing SED leadership under Erich Honecker.
On October 18, Honecker was obliged to step down in favour of his younger protégé Egon Krenz. However, in the following weeks, despite the almost inadvertent opening of the Berlin Wall, Krenz failed to keep up with escalating popular pressure for change.

The impact of the fall of the Berlin Wall

The new openness to reform in what was still known as the “Soviet bloc” had already seen contested elections in Poland in May 1989, and political and economic reforms in Hungary. These were catalysts for the changes in East Germany (especially events like Hungary’s opening of its western border).
In the weeks after the opening of the Berlin Wall, there was a peaceful transition to democratic government in Czechoslovakia, and less peaceful changes of régime in Romania and Bulgaria, as it became clear the Soviet Union was no longer prepared to support hard line Communist governments in Eastern Europe.

Contemporary relevance

The lasting consequences of the fall of the Berlin Wall were momentous.
Despite the presence of hundreds of thousands of Soviet army troops in the former Cold War front line state of East Germany, Gorbachev agreed in negotiations with the United States President George H. W. Bush and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to permit a swift unification of the two German states. This occurred almost entirely on West German terms.
The speedy collapse of the East German economy in mid-1990 left East German leaders, now democratically elected, with little leverage. Once the West German currency, the Deutsche Mark, was introduced into the East in a currency union in July 1990, East German firms, already exposed by the disintegration of the Soviet bloc, were drastically unequipped to compete.
For two centuries, modern European history had largely revolved around the “German Question”: what external borders would a German state have, and what political order would prevail in this pivotal Central European state? The peaceful and democratic unification of 1990 seemed to provide a definitive answer.
Providing real unity between West and East Germans required massive financial transfers from West to East. The transformation of the Eastern states in practise caused significant economic and social dislocation. As East Germans made enormous adjustments in their lives, their Western cousins were also paying slightly higher taxes to cover the costs of unification.
More globally, the fall of the Berlin Wall marked the symbolic end of the Cold War. Berlin had long been a cockpit of Cold War confrontation – now it was the victors’ trophy. One US policy analyst prematurely proclaimed the “end of history”, in so far as history was a clash between major political orders, and Western democracy and capitalism had won.
But since 1989, many disappointments have followed the initial euphoria. The “peace dividend” hoped for by millions, and Gorbachev’s sunny but characteristically vague formula of peaceful coexistence in a “common European home”, have not eventuated. Instead, a triumphant NATO has pitched its tents inside the borders of the old USSR, and a surly and resentful Russia has responded with brinkmanship and confrontation.
Following the end of the Cold War, neoconservative US administrations sought to put their stamp on the world, and the “blowback” has resulted in chaos in much of the Middle East and think tank predictions of a “clash between civilizations”.
The Conversation Economically, turbocharged neoliberal capitalism has come under question, especially following the 2008 global financial crisis. But, what is significant to note is that since the collapse of state socialism, symbolised by the fall of the Wall, the contours of an alternative social order have become almost impossible to discern.

Friday, October 5, 2018

The Effect of Daylight Saving Time on Health

By Oliver Rawashdeh, Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences, The University of Queensland (Source: The Conversation)

On Saturday night, Australians who switch over to daylight saving time will get an hour less of sleep as they move their clocks forward.
Changing the clock causes a temporary state of misalignment in our internal biological time. We may not feel ready to go to bed an hour earlier and our alarms will wake us up before we’ve had enough sleep.
Changing the clock alters the body’s rhythmic production of melatonin, the hormone produced when it gets dark, and cortisol, the stress hormone. These regulate when we feel like going to sleep, when we’re hungry, and our ability to fight off bugs.
This misalignment is a form of jetlag, and can upset the body’s rhythms. It can affect our ability to think clearly and can increase the risk of heart attacks, depression, and even miscarriage.

Heart attack and stroke

Several studies have shown your risk of having a heart attack (myocardial infarction) and stroke increases in the two weeks after the changeover, compared with the two weeks before. The risk is highest in the first three weekdays following the switchover.
Researchers suspect the link is because an hour of sleep loss increases stress and provides less time to recover overnight.
The good news is the increased risk of a heart attack only appears to last for two weeks. After that, our biological clock seems to synchronise to the new time (though researchers are divided on this).
When it comes to the increased risk of heart attack, women are generally more sensitive to the spring transition to daylight saving time, while men are more sensitive to the autumn transition from daylight saving time.
The reasons are unclear but it could be related to the roles sex-specific hormones play in the adjustment.


Research from Germany shows springing forward to summertime can have a negative effect on life satisfaction levels and feelings of anger and sadness, which can last a little over a week.
The effect is largest among full-time employees. These workers must instantaneously shift their work schedule to a time that’s in disagreement with their body’s biological rhythms, while others may allow themselves to ease into their new schedule.
Your risk of depression can also increase during the month after the daylight saving comes into effect. A 17-year Danish study of 185,419 hospital visits found the patient intake for patients diagnosed with depression rose by 11%. This effect dissipated over a ten-week period.


2017 study of IVF patients found a greater chance of pregnancy loss after embryo transfer in spring, when daylight saving time began: 24.3%, as opposed to 15.5% before daylight saving time.
There was no significant difference in pregnancy loss rates during the transition from daylight saving time.

Physical activity

The transition to daylight saving time affects people’s exercise patterns. A 2010 Australian study found one in four people switched from morning to evening exercise sessions. But 8% stopped exercising altogether after the changeover.
However, a much larger study of Australian children found that daylight saving time increases children’s physical activity in the afternoon and evenings, by around two minutes per day.

Night owl or morning lark?

The effect of daylight saving time depends on our chronotype: whether you’re a night owl or early rising lark.
We switch chronotypes as we age; adolescents are predominantly night owls but many will eventually switch to being morning larks in adulthood. So the impact of the transition to daylight saving time also changes as we age.
2009 German study showed that daytime sleepiness was an issue for older students for up to three weeks after the transition to daylight saving time. This is why sleep experts urge schools not to test students in the three weeks after the transition.
The Conversation
We all need time to adjust to daylight saving time – but students and full-time workers might have a tougher time in the weeks after the changeover. So go easy on your kids and colleagues.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Weekly Headlines - 4 Oct 2018

Headlines of note compiled by for 4 Oct 2018. Click on a headline to read more.

Jordan Times >> His Majesty King Abdullah, and HRH Crown Prince Hussein, received Chief of the Pakistan Armed Forces Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa at Al Husseiniya Palace on Tuesday. The meeting covered military cooperation between Jordan and Pakistan, and efforts to fight terrorism according to the Royal Court.
Reuters >> The United States on Thursday indicted seven Russian intelligence officers for conspiring to hack computers and steal data in a bid to delegitimize international anti-doping organizations and expose officials who revealed a Russian state-sponsored athlete doping program.
Reuters >> Head bowed, German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid homage in Jerusalem on Thursday to the six million Jews killed by the Nazis and said Germany had a responsibility to confront anti-Semitism and never to forget the Holocaust.
Reuters >> Britain and the Netherlands accused Russia of running a global campaign of cyber attacks to undermine democracies, including a thwarted attempt to hack into the chemical weapons watchdog while it was analyzing a Russian poison used to attack a spy.
Reuters >> U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Thursday that Russia's violation of an arms control treaty was "untenable" and unless it changed course the United States would respond.
Reuters >> Germany and Israel agree that Iran should never be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons but they differ on how to achieve this goal, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday at a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Reuters >> A fire accompanied by explosions hit a large storage complex in southeast Tehran, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported Thursday.
AP >> Turkey's statistics agency says the country's inflation rate jumped to almost 25 percent in September amid a sliding currency. The Turkish lira has depreciated by close to 40 percent against the dollar since the start of the year over concerns about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's economic policies and spats with the United States.  
AP >> Yemen’s weak Central Bank is getting a $200 million cash infusion from Saudi Arabia to shore up its reserves after the currency went into free fall, sparking further concerns for the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Reuters >> Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that the demilitarized zone in Syria's Idlib was effective and no major military actions are planned in the region.

Turkey parliament extends mandate for troop deployment in Syria, Iraq
AFP >> Turkish parliament Wednesday approved a motion to extend the deployment of troops in neighboring Syria and Iraq for another year, the official Anadolu news agency reported.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Internet and Fact Checking

By Duaa Eldeib (Source: ProPublica)

At the beginning of the year, we asked ProPublica Illinois readers what they wanted to know about how we do our work. Thoughtful, challenging questions have been rolling in ever since, and we’ve been answering them in an occasional series of columns. In this dispatch, ProPublica Illinois reporter Duaa Eldeib answers a question about fact-checking in the internet age.

Back in the 1980s, I spent just a couple of years in the newsroom of a small daily paper with a good reputation ... right before it was acquired and downsized to a rag weekly (sigh). In those days we did fact-checking via published sources — which were still pretty much books and newspapers, almost entirely hard copy. Nowadays those same sources appear to be chiefly internet based, with links that can disappear and text that can be changed after it’s been quoted. How do you navigate that? —Maggie Beaumont
When my friends tell me stories that sound too good to be true, I do what’s in every reporter’s DNA: I ask what their source is for the information. Knowing the source helps me judge the truth of what they’re saying, and whether I should believe, say, that it’s illegal to sell Irish butter in Wisconsin. (Pretty much true until last year, when butter lovers went to court.) The same goes for any story we report. Before we include a fact or a statement, we have to ensure it is correct and the source is credible — even if it takes weeks or months to do so.
Ms. Beaumont is right. Back in the day, reporters used books and other paper documents to check their facts. You confirmed Pulaski was a road, not a street, on a paper map. You pored over the city of Chicago’s budget to determine what the Police Department was slated to spend on overtime. You called the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to check if a doctor had a disciplinary record.
The sources haven’t changed that much, but how we access them has. Now, in many cases, we can turn to the internet. Not Wikipedia, of course, since it’s not a primary source and people can edit errors into entries. I’ve used the state’s online professional license lookupon a number of occasions. I am frequently on the Illinois Department of Corrections’ website. Its offender search gives me basic information on individual inmates, and its dataset on the state’s prison population provides a broader overview.
I used to have to file Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain state employee salaries, but now the Illinois comptroller’s office provides that information on its website. The city of Chicago has a data portal with information on building permits, crime and city contracts, among many other categories of data.
The internet has been a boon to fact-checking in other ways as well. Reporters can access more information than was available in the past, and faster, too. We still have to make judgment calls on that information, though. Several online tools help. One, the Wayback Machine, archives websites so they never really disappear. Another, reverse image searches, allow us to check if a photo has been manipulated and see where it has been published. And geolocation uses GPS data to access information on an online post. ProPublica even runs Politwoops, a site that stores deleted tweets by public officials.
The BBC’s reporting on a viral video of two women and two children being shot to death by soldiers in Cameroon is a stunning example of just how much technology has improved fact-checking and why it’s so important. Reporters were able to refute claims by the Cameroonian government, which initially dismissed the video as “an unfortunate attempt to distort actual facts.” Seven members of the Cameroonian military were ultimately arrested.
It also highlights the value of being transparent with our readers. We try, whenever possible, to explain the reporting and fact-checking process. We want readers to know the source of information so they can evaluate each sentence or information point. So we sometimes include a piece like this on how we analyzed the data.
And we attribute facts and statements in the story itself. Attribution is a core journalistic principle, said Jeff Sonderman, deputy executive director of the American Press Institute, an educational nonprofit that runs a fact-checking and accountability journalism project. In the digital age, linking to documents so readers can see the sourcing takes that practice one step further.
“It’s reasonable in a very messy information environment for consumers to be discerning, to ask for a certain amount of transparency and disclosure about the quality of each source, and for news organizations that are reputable to be expected to provide that,” Sonderman said. “If we all live up to that, it becomes easier for consumers to sort out the things that aren’t reputable because they are not rising to the same standards.”
Do you have a question about journalism? Send it to us at

Monday, October 1, 2018

How Irresponsible Reporting Aids Terrorism

By Audrey Courty, Griffith University and, Griffith University (Source: The Conversation)
Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the US, Islam has become central to debates about social cohesion and national security in Australia.
Restrictions on Muslim immigration have been openly discussed – most recently by Senator Fraser Anning in his maiden speech to parliament – and many believe another terrorist attack in the name of “Islam” is inevitable.
Confronted with this reality, the media are playing an essential role in informing us about Islam and influencing how we respond. But, perhaps due to a limited understanding of Islam or a fear of antagonising Muslims, a fundamental point has largely been absent from reporting: the threat of terrorism does not stem from Islam. Rather, it stems from Islamism, a political ideology.
The two terms may sound similar, but Islam and Islamism are not the same thing. Islam is a faith observed by over 1.6 billion people, whereas Islamism is the political ideology of relatively small groups that borrow concepts like shariah and jihad from Islam and reinterpret them to gain legitimacy for their political goals.
Islamist groups like al Qaida and the Islamic State use violence against non-Muslims with the aim of establishing a political institution (“caliphate”) based on shariah law – neither of which have a basis in the Quran or hadith (Islamic prophetic traditions).
Part of the appeal of the Islamic State comes from its insidious ability to selectively use Islamic teachings and repackage them as legitimate religious obligations.
In particular, Islamists have appropriated the concept of jihad to legitimise an offensive “holy war” against non-Muslims. This interpretation, however, has been rejected by studies that have examined the Quran’s principles concerning war and peace.
Islamic teachings, for instance, prohibit terrorism and the use of violence against civilians. Further, Muslim leaders and scholars around the world have repeatedly condemned terrorism, issuing fatwas (Islamic legal rulings).
By reporting on this misleading interpretation of jihad and under-reporting Muslim condemnations, the Western news media reinforce the perceived connection between Islam and terrorism.
In some cases, media pundits explicitly make this link, pointing to the fact terrorists specifically refer to “Islam” as the basis for their actions.
This uncritical acceptance of terrorists’ claims and misrepresenting of Islam legitimises and unwittingly promotes the Islamist agenda.
In other words, the media plays into the hands of terrorists by allowing them to become the representatives for Islam and Muslims in general.
Islamist terrorists have a strategic interest in propagating the belief that Islam and the West are engaged in a civilisational war.
As the Islamic State outlined in its online magazine in February 2015:
Muslims in the West will soon find themselves between one of two choices.
The group explained that, as the threat of further terrorist attacks looms, Western Muslims will be treated with increased suspicion and distrust, forcing them to:
…either apostatize [convert] … or [migrate] to the Islamic State and thereby escape persecution from the crusader governments and citizens.
The Islamic State’s divide-and-conquer strategy is crucial to its ability to replenish its ranks with foreign recruits. The group targets disaffected and marginalised Western Muslims and invokes an Islamist narrative with promises of brotherhood, security and belonging.
In turn, the Western news media indirectly advance the group’s interests by repeatedly linking Muslim communities to terrorism and failing to meaningfully distinguish the Islamic faith from Islamist political ideology.
For example, as the first wave of Syrian refugees arrived in the UK in 2015, The Daily Mail warned of “the deadly threat of Britain’s enemy within” and associated refugees with the threat of “Muslim extremists”.
In the midst of the 2014 Sydney siege, The Daily Telegraph prematurely linked the Muslim hostage-taker with the Islamic State – a claim that was later dispelled by terrorism experts.
This kind of overly simplistic and sensationalist media coverage serves the Islamic State’s objective to pit Muslims and non-Muslims against one another.
As a study conducted at the University of Vienna in 2017 confirmed, media coverage that does not explicitly distinguish between Muslims and Islamist terrorists fuels hostile attitudes toward the general Muslim population.
With growing awareness of the impact this kind of reporting, some media outlets like CNN have tried to distinguish between “moderate Islam” and “radical Islam”, “Islam” and “Islamic extremism”. But this, too, is misleading because it focuses on presumed religious motivations and overlooks the central role of Islamist political ideology.
survey of almost 1,200 foreigner fighters by the Combating Terrorism Center revealed that over 85% had no formal religious education and were not lifelong, strict adherents to Islam. The report suggests the Islamic State may prefer such recruits because they are:
less capable of critically scrutinising the jihadi narrative and ideology.
Islamism masquerades as religion, but is much more a post-colonial expression of political grievances than a manifestation of the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings. While the establishment of a caliphate or shariah-based order is the expressed agenda of Islamist terrorists, this is not a religious obligation for Muslims.
And it is not an assault on Islam for non-Muslims to say so.
In an effort to strip the Islamic State of its legitimacy, some governments have advised news outlets in the UK and France to use the derogatory acronym “Da'esh” to refer to the group, although this is not always practised.
Malcolm Turnbull, also adopted the term “Islamist terrorism” in order to differentiate between those subscribing to the Islamist ideology and Muslim communities.
But many politicians, such as Donald Trump continue to blur the distinction by using rhetoric like “radical Islamic terrorism” instead.
Some argue that our “political correctness” inhibits us from tackling the problem head on.
But those who say the problem stems from Islam are are mistaken. We should be able to have a constructive conversation about the central concepts of Islam, including whether establishing a “caliphate” and committing violence against non-Muslims are indeed religious obligations or have legitimacy in Islam.
Given the extent to which concerns about Islam have impacted on our society, there is an ethical obligation to differentiate between Islam and Islamism – or at least present a counter to the Islamist perspective.
The Conversation
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Weekly Headlines - 29 Sep 2018

Headlines of note compiled by for 29 Sep 2018. Click on a headline to read more.

Jordan Times >> The Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, on Thursday received pledges of $118 million from donor countries to help it overcome a crisis triggered by US funding cuts, Agence France-Presse reported. The pledges came at a conference Jordan co-host, along with Sweden, Japan, Germany, EU and Turkey.
Reuters >> The Israeli military on Thursday released a video clip and photos of what it said were Hezbollah Shi’ite militia rocket building sites in Lebanon. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had earlier told the U.N. General Assembly that Israel had evidence that Iran was helping Hezbollah develop precision-guided missiles.
Reuters >> Three Saudi men accused of terrorism were killed on Wednesday after they resisted arrest in the eastern Shi'ite Muslim region of Qatif, a Saudi security spokesman said on Thursday. Three members of the Saudi security forces suffered light injuries, he said.
Reuters >> Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan urged Germany on Thursday to designate the group that he blames for a 2016 coup attempt as a terrorist organization. Germany has so far said it needs more evidence to link the movement of the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen to the attempt to overthrow Erdogan.
Reuters >> Egyptian prosecutors are investigating the death of a monk who was from the monastery where a bishop was murdered in June, a case that has rattled the biggest church in the Middle East.
Reuters >> The U.S. economy is not facing a large chance of a recession in the next two years, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said on Thursday. “There’s no reason to think that the probability of a recession in the next year or two is at all elevated,” Powell told a gathering of business people.
NYT >> After walking away from a deal, Tesla’s chief agreed to give up the chairmanship for three years and pay a $20 million fine.
The Daily Star >> U.S. President Donald Trump is the "main culprit" to blame for a recent surge in oil prices, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said Wednesday. "The main culprit of the price hikes... and the destabilization of the market is Mr Trump and… policies," Zanganeh said on state television   
Reuters >> Canada on Thursday shrugged off U.S. President Donald Trump's criticism that talks to modernize NAFTA were moving too slowly and made clear it had to keep negotiating. Washington has already wrapped up a deal with Mexico, the third NAFTA member, and is due to publish the text on Friday.
AP >> Israel's defense minister says the country's border crossing with Syria is reopening for U.N. personnel and will resume operating as before the civil war erupted next door. Avigdor Lieberman visited the Quneitra crossing Thursday.
AFP >> The US-led coalition fighting Daesh (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq has acknowledged the deaths of an additional 53 civilians, bringing the official toll to 1,114.