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The latest news on The Telegraph from Business Insider

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    kurdsFrom the vast size of his office and the breadth of his responsibilities, you would think Akram Hesso was a head of state.

    He talks of economic policies and export taxes, while his armed forces are guarding borders and keeping law and order for his millions of compatriots.

    Those armed forces - men and women alike - have been lionised across the West for their fight against the jihadists of Islamic State of Iraq and Levant .

    In fact, Rojava is a territory few people outside the Middle East could place on a map. Mr Hesso is merely one of several leaders of a new type of entity with which the world is having to come to terms as the Middle East falls apart: the unacknowledged, unauthorised, statelet.

    Rojava is the name Syrian Kurds give to the three Kurdish occupied zones of the north of the country, which have wrested self-rule out of the collapse of the Syrian state. They have then had to defend them against assault from Isil - most dramatically seen in the battle for Kobane, the border town with Turkey.

    The recent conquest of Tal Abyad has meant two of the three “cantons” - Kobane and Jazeera, to the east - now touch on each other, allowing for an even greater measure of autonomy.

    Kurdistan“From the start of our self-administration there’s been coordination between the heads of the three cantons,” Mr Hasso, who runs Jazeera, says. “Opening this corridor will make the coordination better.”

    He has, at his finger-tips, many of the advantages of a state. He exacts taxes from exports - as the long queues of trucks laden with sheep and produce waiting to cross the Tigris into the neighbouring Kurdistan Region of Iraq bear witness.

    The government buys wheat and other agricultural produce from local farmers, and stores it or sell it on elsewhere in Syria, or to Iraq .

    It also has its own oil supplies, from the nodding donkeys that line the region’s roads. Though just five per cent are currently operational, thanks to the fighting, it is a start.

    The desperate battle for Kobane meant that for the first time, the Syrian Kurds’ dominant political party, the PYD, and their male and female fighting forces - the YPG and YPJ - achieved international renown - particularly the female fighters.

    kurdObscured were their origins as a semi-Marxist spin-off from the PKK, the group that has fought the government in neighbouring Turkey for decades and is still a proscribed terrorist organisation.

    It is partly to ensure good relations with the West that the PYD refuses to say it seeks an independent state, which would infuriate Turkey.

    That may change as chaos further engulfs Syria, said Michael Stephens, an analyst with the Royal United Services Institute. “It may well be that as Syria continues to fragment the PYD ends up with even more than it aims for, a de facto independent state entity,” he said.

    That threatens its own political fall-out. While the fighting continues, there is little challenge to the dominance of the PYD. If the region, with its 2.5 million inhabitants who include Arabs and Christians as well as largely Sunni Muslim Kurds, becomes more settled, its claims to be democratic and pluralistic will be put to the test.

    The Kurds pride themselves on what they see as their ethnic and religiously inclusive policies – in Jazeera, Mr Hesso’s deputy is Elizabeth Gawrie, a Catholic Syriac woman.

    Westerners Kurds ISISHowever, recent reports accuse the YPG of expelling non-Kurdish citizens from their towns in an act of ethnic cleansing.

    One of the many western volunteers to help them in their fight, a man from Germany, admitted he had seen Kurds vandalising Arab towns.There is huge suspicion that local Arabs have helped Isil in the war.

    The PYD and the YPG have also gained a reputation for stifling dissent. In 2014, the local administration ordered staff at the local radio station Arta FM to stop their sometimes critical news reporting and only broadcast music.

    “We have had agreements to share the administration but the PYD does not stick to them,” protested Anwar Nasso, a member of one opposition party, Yekiti.

    Even the mainstream Kurdish National Council (KNC), which is in coalition with the PYD, is becoming increasingly resentful.

    kurds5“It would be difficult for the PYD to ignore the multiple constituencies in Rojava without there being a significant level of domestic unrest,” Mr Stephens said. “It is in the PYD’s interests to be as inclusive as possible, and there is much to lose if it is not.”

    That remains for the future. Apart from Isil, one other large obstacle remains to the PYD’s dream of uniting Jazeera, Kobane and the third canton, Afrin to the west - the continued presence of the regime.

    Damascus continues to run check-points and bases in both the region’s two main cities, Qamishli and Hassakeh. In return, it continues to pay teachers’ and doctors’ salaries

    But Mr Hesso is insistent that his administration is as self-reliant as can be expected in a chaotic environment. “We’ve been buying and selling locally and the money that is coming in is not from the regime,” he said.

     

    This article was written by Sofia Barbarani in Rojava from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Flag burningIt's not just disaffected pensioners: young Greeks have worked out that they don't need the bloated EU

    Despite the scaremongering and bullying from those in Brussels, we are waking today with Greece having delivered a resounding No .

    That comes despite EU bosses saying that it would mean a Greek exit from the Euro, not to mention the heavy economic pressure placed on the Greek people to go along with the wishes of Brussels. It is a crushing defeat for those Eurocrats who believe that you can simply bulldoze public opinion.

    Chief bully-boy Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, and other supposed leaders of the European Union did their best to terrify the Greek people into submitting to the wishes of the European Union . But they utterly failed. The fear espoused by the Yes campaign was rejected. Opinion polls that put the Yes side ahead just days before were way out, as thousands upon thousands of Greek citizens lined the streets chanting “Oxi”.

    Where does Greece go from here ? Well it seems to me that Alexis Tsipras cannot go on having his cake and eating it. A more prosperous Greece, ran by the Greeks rather than by the EU must surely face up to the reality that a euro exit is both inevitable and desirable in order for a long-term economic recovery to truly begin.

    There is a bigger picture to consider, however. A huge generational dynamic exists, running through all of this. One poll from Antenna News in Greece found that 67 per cent of Greeks under the age of 35 voted No which shows just how much the seismic plates are shifting within European politics. The fact that young Greeks overwhelmingly rejected the Brussels dictat and voted No in huge numbers is of massive significance.

    Whilst some of the older generation may still buy into the notion of the EU having brought peace to Europe, the younger generations are just not sold. And why should they be? The European Union today is causing massive resentment between European nations. Just look at how relations between Germany and Greece have deteriorated. Far from bringing peace, the EU now sows resentment.

    Whatever fine aims there were fifty or sixty years ago have no relevance to the reality of life for young people right across the EU now, including in Greece. The EU’s old, outdated ideas have been rejected at the ballot box in exchange for a new approach and fresh thinking.

    Nigel Farage: The EU is dying before our eyes

    The result is a tired, stumbling European Union that is dying on its feet before our very eyes. Credibility for the project is fading fast as citizens right across Europe awaken to the reality of its authoritarian instincts that seek to run roughshod over public opinion.

    With younger generations now turning against the EU project, we can see support for the EU's dream of a United States of Europe fading fast. An outdated European Union has been found out and rejected emphatically by young Greeks in the 21st century.

    It is all too clear to see why: both the euro single currency and the European Union itself have done great harm to the prospects of young people who are now realising that we do not need a single currency or a political union to be friends, neighbours and trading partners. Far more important than this European Union is the concept of national democracy, of which this Greek referendum and its result are a beaming example of.

     

    This article was written by Nigel Farage from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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    Rosetta image comet sinkhole

    Despite claims this week that comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko may hold alien life, mission scientists think it is unlikely.

    Scientists have dismissed claims that the Rosetta comet could harbour alien life after researchers said micro-organisms could exist on the icy rock.

    At the National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno this week astrophysicists from Cardiff and Buckingham Universities said that comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko appeared to have frozen lakes which could hold organic debris.

    They claimed that micro-organisms could inhabit cracks in its ice and ‘snow’

    Dr Max Wallis said: “Rosetta has already shown that the comet is not to be seen as a deep-frozen inactive body, but supports geological processes and could be more hospitable to micro-life than our Arctic and Antarctic regions”.

    The Rosetta spacecraft spent ten years catching up with 67P before releasing its Philae probe last November and has been studying the comet for several months.

    However the scientists behind the mission said the comet was probably too inhospitable for life.

    “I think it is highly unlikely,” said Professor Monica Grady of the Open University who helped design the Ptolemy instrument carried by Philae.

    Rosetta project scientist Dr Matt Taylor also dismissed the claims.

    “It's pure speculation," he said: "I think it is unlikely."

    Data from the orbiting Rosetta spacecraft has revealed 67P to be an irregular ‘duck shaped’ comet with about 4.3 by 4.1 km in extent.

    Researchers at Cardiff and Buckinham said the comet appears to have a black crust and underlying ice and images show large, smooth ‘seas’, flat-bottomed craters and a surface peppered with mega-boulders. They say it appears these crater lakes are re-frozen bodies of water overlain with organic debris.

    rosetta philaetouchdownParallel furrows relate to the flexing of the asymmetric and spinning double-lobed body, which generates fractures in the ice beneath.

    Dr Wallis, and his colleague Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, Director of the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology, argue that these features are all consistent with a mixture of ice and organic material that consolidate under the sun’s warming during the comet’s orbiting in space, when active micro-organisms can be supported.

    In their model, the micro-organisms probably require liquid water bodies to colonise the comet and could inhabit cracks in its ice and ‘snow’.

    Organisms containing anti-freeze salts are particularly good at adapting to these conditions and some could be active at temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius.

    Sunlit areas of P/67 Churyumov-Gerasimenko have approached this temperature last September, when at 500 million km from the Sun and weak gas emissions were evident.

    As it travels to its closest point to the Sun – perihelion at 195 million km – the temperature is rising, gassing increasing and the micro-organisms should become increasingly active.

    Dr Wallis and Prof Wickramasinghe cite further evidence for life in the detection by Philae of abundant complex organic molecules on the surface of the comet and in the infrared images taken by Rosetta.

    “If the Rosetta orbiter has found evidence of life on the comet, it would be a fitting tribute to mark the centenary of the birth of Sir Fred Hoyle, one of the undisputable pioneers of astrobiology.” 

    This article was written by Sarah Knapton Science Editor from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

    READ MORE: Scientists just discovered what these mysterious pits on a comet are

    CHECK OUT: Scientists are super excited that our comet-landing space probe just phoned home after 7 months of silence

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Scientists finally figured out how to land on a comet going 35,000 mph


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    Khaleel Al DakhiDuring the siege of Mount Sinjar last August, thousands of men were brutally murdered over a matter of weeks. But amid the slaughter, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) terrorists chose a different fate for the women of the town. Women from every house were taken hostage, with Isil fighters grabbing thousands of young girls and elderly grandmothers in the largest single kidnapping of women this century.

    After the attack, those who survived faced the seemingly impossible task of trying to rescue their women from Isil territory. No government has offered to infiltrate Isil and help free the women, and so it’s left to the Sinjar citizens to get their sisters, daughters, and mothers back.

    One man, a lawyer named Khaleel al-Dakhi, is at the forefront of this improvised rescue mission. So far, his network has saved 530 women and children from the hands of Isil.

    Today, Khaleel says that Isil is no longer the impenetrable force it once was, and a myriad of informants from inside the terrorists’ territory leak information on the power structure and its daily operations. But after the Sinjar siege, there was no information on where the girls might be imprisoned or even whether they were still alive.

    Plotting an escape route

    A woman who was ab_3367455bKhaleel’s work began in September last year, when he started compiling details of all the women and children who had been kidnapped by Isil. After talking to every family from Sinjar, he had a list of more than 3,000 names. But the next stage – a rescue attempt – was far more difficult.

    Isil has claimed the Syrian city Raqqa as their capital, but the terrorists’ territory is larger than Great Britain, spreading throughout Iraq and dividing Sinjar, which is home to the minority Yazidi community. The Isil border runs through Sinjar City, and the terrorist group controls 70 per cent of the city, the land to the south of the mountain and large areas to the west and east. The Sinjar women could have been taken anywhere within the Isil-controlled land.

    “At the beginning, it was so difficult to rescue them,” says Khaleel. In fact, the very first girls who escaped Isil territory managed to do so without any outside help. “At the time, Isil was more focused on their weapons and weren't paying as much attention to the girls, which is why they managed to escape without anyone helping them,” says Khaleel. “Also, the borders between Isil and Sinjar were not as strong as they are now.”

    The girls who escaped without assistance were able to describe the Isil territory to Khaleel, which helped him carry out his first rescue mission of five young girls. Women kidnapped by Isil are often sold as slaves and live in the houses of their captors, and so Khaleel needs the details of their living situation before he can plan an escape.

    Young Yazidi women_3367498bKhaleel does not work alone. Instead, he constantly talks to a network of men who are trying to gather information, including allies living inside the Isil area. They smuggle phones inside Isil, so Khaleel can talk to the girls about where they're living and how many guards are present. Khaleel has more than 100 contacts inside Isil territory, and these men face incredible risks as they smuggle the women away from their captors and to a safe house inside Isil territory.

    They make false Isil ID cards and hide for up to 10 days, until the frontline fighting has died down and the coast is clear. Then Khaleel's contacts guide the women on foot across the Isil territory and towards Sinjar, sometimes walking for two days and nights without a break. Thanks to their work, hundreds of women and girls have been saved. But three men who helped the women of Sinjar have been captured and killed by Isil.

    If Khaleel were captured by Isil, he would undoubtedly meet the same fate. “Of course my life is in danger, but I have to rescue our girls and our women," he says. "I am never afraid, because I’m not better than all my people who were killed by Isil. But I try to protect myself because there many of my people in Isil jails waiting for me to rescue them. When I rescue one person from Isil, I feel that I've had one victory against the terrorists.”

    Where nine-year-old girls are sold as 'wives'

    Girls from the Yaz_3367458b

    The vast majority of women, including young children, are raped by Isil terrorists. Official Isil documents claim that it’s acceptable to marry nine-year-old girls, and so children are sold as wives to strangers. Khaleel interviews every woman who is successfully rescued, and is documenting the horrors of life under Isil.

    "They beat the women, they gang rape them, they make them have forced marriage with many men. Some women have their infant babies taken away by force,” says Khaleel. “They take them to a slave market and give women to each other like a gift.”

    If the women try to resist, then they are put in a single jail cell or out in the sun for long periods of time, or else they are simply killed. Khaleel knows one nine-year-old girl who was brutally raped by a middle-aged Isil fighter, who tore her vagina. She was then made to have Genital Mutilation surgery, after which the terrorist tried to rape her again.

    Isil claim to be devoutly religious, but believes there's no sin in raping children - especially Yazidi children, who Isil sees as "unbelievers". Khaleel stays in touch with the women after they escape from the terrorists, making sure they get gynaecological and psychological treatment. He visits each woman several times a month and tries to help them live a normal life. 

    "Any British women who plan to leave the UK and voluntarily join Isilshould talk to the escaped women of Sinjar about life under the terrorists’ rule," says Khaleel. “Maybe they don’t believe me, they don’t believe you, they don’t believe the government,” says Khaleel. “But if they come into our area and talk to our girls, then they will believe.”

    The women suffer tremendous psychological distress, and the trauma does not fade easily. Isil is one of the world’s most brutal regimes for women, and even those who live there by choice face constant oppression. Women can’t leave their house without a close male relative and must wear three veils over their face. They will be lashed if their eyeballs are visible, and stoned to death if they’re accused of adultery.

    The moment a young_3367485bBut Khaleel says he’s started to see cracks in the Isil regime. “There are many spies inside the Isil area who are giving us information and many friends over there helping to bring the women and girls over to us,” says Khaleel. “Isil aren’t becoming more dangerous, they’re becoming weak.”

    Khaleel thinks that Isil will be driven from Iraq within a year, though his work is dependent on such hope. There are still 2,500 Sinjar women held captive in Isil territory, each praying for a guide who will help them escape. If Isil aren’t defeated, then Khaleel will need to carry out hundreds more rescue missions before the women of Sinjar are home again.

    The Dispatches episode 'Escape from Isis' will air at 10pm on Wednesday, July 15 on Channel 4.

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    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad ZarifIran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif, has written an op-ed in the Financial Times which sets forward a distinct sequence for ostensibly resolving the daunting security challenges of the Middle East.

    First, the P5+1 - the group of powerful nations negotiating with Iran - should come to a deal over its nuclear program . As a result, he argues, Tehran will "open new horizons" and join "the international battle" against "the increasingly brutal extremism that is engulfing the Middle East."

    The idea that Iran is a partner in the fight against terrorism is not only disingenuous but also absurd. What Zarif is seeking is a leap of faith by his Western readers, who are asked to believe that a country which has been repeatedly identified as the largest state supporter of terrorism in the world will suddenly be altered by an agreement over its nuclear program into an ally against terrorism. He is asking the world to simply trust Iran that this transformation is about to happen.

    There is no evidence that the trust Zarif seeks is warranted in any way. Iran operates globally through cells controlled by the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), often backed by operatives of Hizbollah. During the nuclear negotiations, this network has not been reduced in size; it operates in some 30 countries and on five continents - Iranian-backed attacks have taken place in such diverse locations as Argentina, France, Austria, Bulgaria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, India, Thailand and even the United States.

    Indeed, in October, 2011, the US uncovered a plot by an IRGC operative to recruit members of a Mexican drug cartel to conduct a mass casualty attack in Washington DC aimed at the Saudi Ambassador to the US. Since that time IRGC activity has only intensified. Yet another Iranian terrorist cell was discovered in Cypus just last month.

    Some in the West hope that since Iran is led by a Shiite government it can be recruited in the fight against Sunni extremism, including against the Islamic State (Isil) . This analysis often overlooks Iran's proven willingness to cross the Sunni-Shiite divide to promote Sunni jihadism as well. Just after 9/11, Sunni extremists, including al-Qaeda, fled Afghanistan and sought asylum in Iran.

    These included Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the future commander of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which eventually became Isil. Iranian backing for Sunni jihadists, with arms and training, has extended to Hamas and Islamic Jihad as well as to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

    kerry iranA nuclear deal is likely only to intensify Iranian support for global terrorism for two reasons.

    First, the lifting of sanctions on Iran will result in a windfall of cash for the Iranian treasury, which could reach $150 billion in the first year. As Iran decides which Middle Eastern insurgency to back with its IRGC units, it often has to establish priorities because it is operating under clear economic constraints.

    These constraints will be removed as Iran obtains the wherewithal to fully fund and even expand its terrorist activity worldwide.

    Second, in past decades, states supporting terrorism feared retaliatory operations by the West, such as the US attack on Libya in 1986. Deterrence could be created. But if Iran becomes a nuclear threshold state, as a result of its impending agreement with the P5+1, what are the chances that deterrence of this sort will hold? Iran will seek to act with impunity as the terrorism it sponsors acquires a protective nuclear umbrella.

    Zarif is the last Iranian official who should talk about rejecting terrorism. Last January, he paid a highly publicized visit to Lebanon and laid a wreath at the grave of Imad Mughniyeh, the mastermind of Hizbollah terrorism, who was responsible for the attacks in the 1980s on American and French forces in Beirut, hijacking civilian aircrafts and taking international hostages.

    Winston Churchill has been attributed with the saying that he refused to be impartial between the fire brigade and the fire. To take his distinction a step further, depending on Iran to fight terrorism is like making an arsonist part of the fire brigade. There is no basis for believing this will possibly work. Iran must unequivocally abandon its backing of international terrorism if it ever wants to rejoin the world community.

    Dr. Gold is the Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel.

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    El Chapo tunnel


    Mexico 's attorney general on Sunday toured the building located at the end of the tunnel used by drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán to escape from the country's Altiplano maximum-security prison.

    chapo guzman mexico tunnelArely Gómez inspected the tunnel opening inside the building that had been dug clear.

    Gómez also looked around the basic kitchen and bedroom area where a pair of trainers had been left beside the bed.

    El Chapo houseGuzmán, who led the Sinaloa cartel, escaped from the Altiplano prison late on Saturday.

    He fled through a mile-long tunnel from his cell, emerging in a building that was under construction.

    Prosecutors are questioning 30 prison employees amid suspicions of an inside job.

    El Chapo

    SEE ALSO: The world's most notorious drug lord escaping from prison is 'almost Mexico’s worst nightmare'

    SEE ALSO: The world's most notorious drug lord used a secret tunnel and a motorcycle to escape from his high-security prison cell

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    The heads of state in their regalia

    An annual meeting of self-proclaimed Kings, Queens, Grand Dukes and Emperors took place in the Free Republic of Alcatraz this month. Tom Coote was in attendance

    In the Free Republic of Alcatraz they are lining Kings, Queens, Grand Dukes and Emperors up against a wall, to be shot by a ramshackle collection of photographers and an Italian television crew.

    As the King of Alcatraz appears before us, in his full regalia, a spontaneous cheer erupts from the small but enthusiastic crowd: his highness resembles a cross between Andy Pandy, a court jester and a wizard.

    Many of these dignitaries, having chosen to honour us with their presence, have travelled from far and wide to represent their own tiny self-declared states at the 3rd International Conference on Micronations. What started out for many as an art statement, a political protest, or simply a hobby, has grown into a global phenomenon throughout a world in which many feel increasingly disenchanted with the dream of the nation state.

    As the seemingly powerless appropriate the iconography of ruling elites, they successfully parody many of our assumptions regarding class, identity and economics power. They also look like they're having a laugh.

    The King of Alcatraz resembles Andy PandyIt is no coincidence that a number of Micronations have emerged from what are effectively artists colonies - Uzupis, Christiana and Ladonia, to name but three – as small but focused collectives of artists, poets, and musicians, seem to foster the outsider mentality, and intellectual playfulness, required for such irreverence.

    Alcatraz, the host of this year's micronations conference, is also something akin to an artistic state: a 50 Euro taxi ride from the nearest public transport, in Perugia, this micronation really does exist in a world of its own, where artistic expression, the joys of slow food, and protection of the local environment, are enshrined in its constitution.

    But not all micronations have such lofty concerns. Others have formed following disputes with with local authorities, to avoid paying national taxes, to make some easy cash from selling meaningless titles to gullible foreigners, or simply to gain attention.

    The Republic of Molossia was conceived by Kevin Baugh in 1977, as part of a school projectOthers vociferously object to the idea of belonging to a state simply because they happened to be born within a certain territory: the one-man micronation, formerly known as Benny Andre Lund, changed his name by deed poll to 'The Republic of Benny'. When I looked a little sceptical he showed me the name in his Norwegian passport. 'I fell free' said The Republic of Benny, raising his arms wide open to the world.

    HRH The Crown Princess Greta of Ladonia seems a little less certain of her place amongst royalty. When her mum, Queen Carolyn, came back from work one day and announced that the 17.000 citizens of Ladonia had voted her in as their Head of State, she really wasn't sure what to make of it.

    She was also more than a little surprised to find that she was next in line to the throne; especially as she wasn't entirely sure where Ladonia actually is (it is located in a national reserve in the south of Sweden). Queen Caroline, however, was clearly born to rule.

    Her work place managers, back in Washington DC, may have prevented her from adding her full title of 'Her Majesty Queen Carolyn of Ladonia' to the plaque on her office door – apparently it was too long to fit on – but she still aspires to boss people around, whenever the opportunity arises.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Samantha Cristoforetti

    The astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti has broken the record for the longest space mission in history by a woman.

    In this exclusive interview, she talks about its physical and psychological toll, the experience of having your colleagues' lives in your hands - and how to take a shower in space

    When Samantha Cristoforetti landed on earth a few weeks ago, she arrived as the holder of a new record: the longest space mission in history by a woman . She had been in space for 200 days.

    Two hundred days of witnessing 15 sunsets in 24 hours and of scooting over the Caribbean and the Alps in the same morning. More than six months of bouncing around the International Space Station unhindered by gravity.

    “I have the feeling that there is some kind of evil giant trying to press me into the ground,” Cristoforetti tells me of being back on her home planet. “It’s very weird.”

    When she and the three other astronauts landed in Kazakhstan in the Soyuz capsule, they had to be carried to the medical tent.

    “Your co-ordination, your balance, all the little tiny muscles that you don’t even know you have but that help you to sit upright and walk upright” – all that was gone, she says over the phone from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where she has been undergoing physical wellbeing tests and rehabilitation since her return.

    The 38-year-old will spend almost four weeks in this intensive programme, working to overcome the havoc wrought on her body by months in space. The absence of gravity means the body stops wasting energy building unnecessary muscle and bone, leaving astronauts weak on their return. They can suffer dizziness, because of the change in blood pressure, and even have trouble speaking, because they’ve grown used to having weightless tongues.

    Cristoforetti expects it will take a year to be fully back to normal.

    “For months, lifting my legs to run or walk was no effort at all. So now every time I take a step and have to lift the full weight of my leg it feels like lifting a tree trunk.”

    The Italian astronaut’s other priorities, she says, include stocking up on olive oil – “I ran out in the final weeks of the mission” (each astronaut was allowed to take a few “bonus foods” to supplement the usual freeze-dried goodies) - and to “focus on my relationships.”

    Samantha Cristoforetti

    Cristoforetti is not currently married and does not have children, but spending almost a year away from friends and family (what with the pre-mission training and quarantine periods) takes its toll. Her profession places huge demands on personal life, something the new ABC television series, The Astronaut’s Wives Club, explores. It tells the true story of the wives of America’s Mercury Seven astronauts, who formed the club in the 1960s.

    They met up regularly and even moved house to be nearer one another so they could support each other through the loneliness and, in several cases, marital tensions that came with having an astronaut for a spouse.

    Inevitably, astronauts miss important personal moments, from parents passing away to babies being born.

    It's one reason they're so rigorously tested for psychological as well as technical suitability before they’re selected for a mission. Astronauts need to be very psychologically robust, Cristoforetti tells me. “It’s essential that you're emotionally as well as physically healthy - and that you are able to take care of your crewmates both emotionally and physically, too.”

    She shared the ISS with the Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and Terry Virts from NASA, with only a broom cupboard-sized pod of her own. To sleep, she simply zipped herself into a sleeping bag tethered to the wall of her cubby-hole and drifted.

    Their mission, Futura, lasted almost seven months and involved running scientific experiments and doing maintenance work on the ISS.

    The job requires a mind-boggling combination of technical and social skills. The astronauts are cooped up for months together, and will need to support each other through all kinds of unexpected personal and medical issues (they are trained in minor surgery), on top of carrying out potentially fatal mission tasks.

    “The most challenging moment for me,” says Cristoforetti, “was when my two crewmates went out on a space walk and I was in charge.”

    It involved six hours of “complex choreography managed to the second”. If she’d got something wrong they could have died. It was, she says, “a huge responsibility”.

    Some of the challenges the astronauts face are more familiar. “When you live in close quarters with people like that you definitely get to know each other well,” says Cristoforetti.

    “But,” she laughs, “you learn when to leave each other alone, too. You also have to accept that there are topics where you just have to agree to disagree, and not discuss them because there’s just no point.”

    Cristoforetti sent a steady stream of pictures, videos and messages to her 600,000 Twitter followers from the ISS.

    One video shows the astronauts cutting each other’s hair with scissors in one hand and a hoover-like contraption in the other, to catch the clippings before they disperse in all directions like confetti.

    In another, she shows how they “shower”– by squeezing tiny amounts of water onto their skin, where it sticks in gelatinous-looking globules that they combine with a special soap and slather over themselves. No rinsing.

    While on the ISS, Cristoforetti contacted an idol of hers, Susan Sarandon, partly because her favourite film is Thelma & Louise and partly because she shares the actress’s desire to get more girls into STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

    “I think there is a lot of wasted female potential at the moment,” she says. “There is a lot of talent that is not being accessed because so few girls study STEM subjects.”

    As for Cristoforetti, she gained a masters degree in Mechanical Engineering before joining the Italian Air Force and becoming a fighter pilot.

    Three years later, in 2009, she was selected from among 7000 applicants to become a European Space Agency astronaut and has been training ever since.

    She was launched on a Soyuz spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 23 November 2014.

    It’s impossible to describe what it’s like to be so far from home, she tells me, seeing our blue globe from the cold darkness of the ISS observatory. “The entire experience of being in space is magical,” she says.

    The mission will officially wrap up in mid-August. Until then, there will be “a lot of debriefing of medical data and science data.” There will also be a lot of enjoying fresh food, running water and the simple pleasures of life on earth.

    “Opening the capsule when we landed was an overwhelming moment,” says Cristoforetti. “Suddenly you have normal air coming in and you start smelling it.

    "I remember we all turned to each other and said we could smell the grass and feel the wind.” She repeats something she tweeted many times while posting photographs of our planet from space: “Earth is beautiful”.

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    El ChapoThe elaborate prison escape of Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman may have cost $50 million including huge bribes to prison officials.

    An estimate of the cost of the break out was given by Jhon Jairo Velasquez Vasquez, the former chief hitman of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.

    The escape was a devastating blow to President Enrique Pena Nieto.

    As Mexico's biggest manhunt intensified the president and his wife, former soap opera star Angelica Rivera, were pictured enjoying Bastille Day on a state visit to France.

    Guzman's likeliest hiding place is believed to be to the mountainous Golden Triangle area in Central Mexico.

    Jose Reveles, the author of books about Mexican drug trafficking, told the Los Angeles Times: "They used to say, once El Chapo went into the mountains it would be like trying to find Osama bin Laden. He has his spies, his spotters, his killers."

    The cost of the escape would have been easily affordable for Guzman, whose fortune has been estimated at $1 billion by Forbes magazine.

    Mexican police released a recent photograph of him with his hair and black moustache shaved off.

    That cast doubt on the veracity of photographs circulated in the Mexican media purporting to show Guzman after his escape flying in a helicopter and drinking a beer.

    According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration the diminutive Guzman, who is believed to be aged 58, began planning his break out of prison immediately after he was captured in February 2014.

    The DEA first alerted Mexican authorities to tip-offs it was receiving about escape plots 16 months ago.

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    earthquake damage 'There would have to be a very dramatic extension with grace periods of 30 years on the entire stock of European debt,' the fund says

    The International Monetary Fund has set off a political earthquake in Europe, warning that Greece may need a full moratorium on debt payments for 30 years and perhaps even long-term subsidies to claw its way out of depression.

    "The dramatic deterioration in debt sustainability points to the need for debt relief on a scale that would need to go well beyond what has been under consideration to date,” said the IMF in a confidential report.

    Greek public debt will spiral to 200pc of GDP over the next two years, compared to 177pc in an earlier report on debt sustainability issued just two weeks ago.

    The findings are explosive. The document amounts to a warning that the IMF will not take part in any EMU-led rescue package for Greece unless Germany and the EMU creditor powers finally agree to sweeping debt relief.

    This vastly complicates the rescue deal agreed by eurozone leaders in marathon talks over the weekend since Germany insists that the bail-out cannot go ahead unless the IMF is involved.

    The creditors were aware of the IMF’s report as early as Sunday, yet chose to sweep it under rug. Extracts were leaked to Reuters on Tuesday, forcing the matter into the open.

    Christine Lagarde IMF

    The EMU summit statement vaguely mentions “possible longer grace and payment periods”, but only at later date, and only if Greece is deemed to have complied with all the demands. Germany has ruled out a debt “haircut” altogether, claiming that it would violate Article 125 of the Lisbon Treaty.

    The IMF said there is no conceivable chance that Greece will be able to tap private capital markets in the foreseeable future, leaving the country entirely dependent on rescue funding.

    It claimed that capital controls and the shutdown of the Greek banking system had entirely changed the picture for debt dynamics, an implicit criticism of both the Greek government and the eurozone authorities for letting the political dispute get out of hand.

    The decision by the European Central Bank to force the closure of the Greek banks two weeks ago by freezing emergency liquidity assistance (ELA), appears to have cost European taxpayers very large sums of money..

    The IMF said the Europeans will either have to offer a “deep upfront haircut” or slash the debt burden by stretching maturities and presumably by lowering interest costs.

    “There would have to be a very dramatic extension with grace periods of, say, 30 years on the entire stock of European debt,” it said.

    Debt forgiveness alone would not be enough. There would also have to be “new assistance”, and perhaps “explicit annual transfers to the Greek budget”.

    This is the worst nightmare of the northern creditor states. The term "Transfer Union" has been dirty in the German political debate ever since the debt crisis erupted in 2010.

    The underlying message of the report is that Greece is in such deep trouble that it cannot withstand further austerity cuts. This is hard to square with the latest demands by EMU creditors for pension cuts, tax rises, and fiscal tighting equal to 2pc of GDP by next year.

    Nobel economist Paul Krugman said the cuts are macro-economic "madness" in these circumstances.

    Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister, told the New Statesman that whenever he tried to discuss the economic rationale for the policies enforced upon Greece, he was met with blank stares. "It is as if you haven’t spoken. You might as well have sung the Swedish national anthem – you’d have got the same reply.”

    Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis

    Unless there is a change of course, Greece's debt ratio will still be 170pc of GDP by the time the current framework expires in 2022. Even this assumes that there is no global downturn, and that everything goes to plan. The figure is up from 142pc two weeks ago.

    The IMF’s report raises as many questions as it answers. Almost no economist would accept that two weeks of capital controls could alone raise the debt ratio by 28 percentage points of GDP a full seven years later.

    The backdrop to this sudden shift in position is almost certainly political. It follows an intense push for debt relief over recent days by the US Treasury, the dominant voice on the IMF Board in Washington.

    The IMF’s report issued in early July was savaged by one bail-out veteran. Ashoka Mody, the former chief of Ireland’s IMF rescue, said the original findings were “fictitious” and failed to recognize the full gravity of the debt-deflation crisis in Greece.

    It appears that powerful voices in global capitals and on the IMF board have since demanded that the Fund go back to the drawing board.

    Its conclusions validate what Greece’s Syriza government has been saying all along. The debt cannot be repaid. Any formula that fails to recognize this merely stores up an even bigger crisis down the road.

     

    This article was written by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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    Roman Forum

    No Roman Holiday – the Eternal City is in chronic decline as a result of a toxic mix of corruption, debt, poor administration, and shabby infrastructure

    It may boast the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and the glories that were ancient Rome, but the city is now in chronic decline, its business leaders and inhabitants have warned.

    The Eternal City is facing crisis, with its administration engulfed in corruption scandals and debt, its roads scarred by potholes, the main airport partially closed, and a growing immigration crisis.

    For generations the Italian capital has rested on past glories rather than built on them, but now its multiple problems have come to a head.

    Drivers on the metro system are on a go-slow in a protest over pay and conditions, hundreds of flights into Fiumicino, the main airport, have been canceled because of a fire that broke out in a terminal back in May, and temperatures have soared this week to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 Celsius), making daily life even more hellish than normal.

    "Rome is on the verge of collapse," Giancarlo Cremonesi, the president of the Rome Chamber of Commerce, told Reuters.

    "It is unacceptable that a major city which calls itself developed can find itself in such a state of decay."

    A survey by the European Commission two years ago placed Rome last out of 28 European Union capitals in a ranking for the efficiency of city services.

    Despite great food, superb coffee, and an enviable climate, on an index of quality of life, the capital came second to last, with Athens at the bottom.

    roman holiday finalIts Renaissance churches, cobbled streets, and vibrant piazzas still wow tourists from around the world, but beyond the historic center, the city is a mess and life is a struggle for locals.

    Everything has been exacerbated by the effects of Italy’s longest recession since World War II, with homeless people on the street and youth unemployment over 40%.

    Broken-down motor scooters and bicycles are dumped on pavements, curbs are overgrown with grass and shrubs, and there is litter everywhere.

    Along the Tiber River, Romany Gypsies have set up shanty villages, their shacks hidden from view by tall thickets of cane grass.

    A lack of bins mean locals and visitors alike drop their garbage on the ground, while a much-hyped bike-sharing plan that was launched a few years ago has broken down entirely, the bicycles either damaged or stolen.

    "It has got a lot worse in the last few years," Costanza Cagni, who has lived in the city since 2000, told The Telegraph.

    "Everybody moans, but nobody offers any solutions. The quality of life has really gone down. I'm sorry to say it, but I just want to leave Rome and move somewhere else."

    The city was hit by a major corruption scandal earlier this year that explained, in part, why public services are so shoddy.

    An investigation found that corrupt local politicians had colluded with criminal gangs to cream off money from a range of services, from trash collection to the management of refugee facilities.

    The scandal has been dubbed "Mafia Capitale," and it comes amid growing evidence that the city is being infiltrated by organized crime groups.

    Rome tourism ItalyOn Wednesday the police raided a restaurant close to the Pantheon, the ancient Roman temple that was later converted into a church, on suspicion that it was controlled by the Calabrian mafia, the feared 'Ndrangheta.

    The crime syndicate is believed to be laundering more and more of its money through legitimate businesses in Rome, as well as Milan.

    Exploitation by criminal gangs has exacerbated years of incompetent administration by the city council.

    Ignazio Marino, a former surgeon who is now mayor of Rome, acknowledged that much of the city’s public administration was "substantially rotten."

    In an open letter this week to Corriere della Sera, a leading daily, he said that like Matteo Renzi, the prime minister, who is trying to push through difficult reforms at the national level, he too was trying to implement "profound and radical reforms" in the capital.

    He said he had come up against a "cancer" of favoritism and deep resistance to change. But as he wages that fight, historic buildings remain daubed with ugly graffiti, with the culprits hardly ever caught.

    On main roads out of the city, teenage prostitutes from Eastern Europe and West Africa solicit business in miniskirts and high heels — a brutal departure from the romantic image of the capital portrayed by sentimental films such as "Eat, Pray, Love" or "Three Coins in the Fountain."

    Rome, Italy"Rome is a very long way from normal Western standards of civility and decorum," said Massimiliano Tonelli, the founder of a website called Roma Fa Schifo, or Rome is Disgusting, which logs the city's problems.

    "It's a combination of bad administration, corruption, and bureaucracy. The metro hasn't worked properly for the last 15 days. If that was the case in London, you would have a public revolt on your hands."

    Rome needed a leader such as Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, who in the 1990s cleaned up the metropolis with a regime of zero tolerance, drawing on the "broken-windows theory," which held that if minor violations were tolerated, much more serious crimes would flourish.

    "If someone parks illegally or urinates in the street, they need to be fined," Tonelli said. "We need to tackle egoism and individualism, the idea that it is every man for himself."

    Garbage, bad transport, and graffiti harm tourism — each year the city attracts around 10 million visitors, but the rate of repeat visits is among the lowest in Europe.

    "We need a complete change of mentality," Tonelli said. "New York in the '90s was very similar to how Rome is now — there was corruption, it was dirty, nobody paid when they traveled on the metro, there was graffiti. It can be done. It is not irrecoverable."

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    south china sea google maps scarborough shoal spratly

    Google has removed the Chinese name for a disputed shoal in the South China Sea from its Maps service, following protests from Philippine citizens.

    Google Maps English service on Tuesday corrected the labelling of the atoll to read Scarborough Shoal, the internationally neutral term for the territory claimed by both the Philippines and China.

    The move came after more than 2,000 people signed an online petition on Change.org asking for Google to stop identifying the shoal as part of China’s Zhongsha Island chain.

    “We’ve updated Google Maps to fix the issue. We understand that geographic names can raise deep emotions which is why we worked quickly once this was brought to our attention,” Google’s office in Manila said in a statement.

    In 2012, China and the Philippines engaged in a standoff at Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground, after a Philippine warship attempted to expel Chinese fishing boats in the area. China has controlled the shoal since, though it is some 650 km away from Hainan island, the nearest major Chinese landmass.

    China bases its claim to the area on its “nine-dash line”, a demarcation based on historical records that decrees almost the entire to South China Sea as Chinese territory.

    The Philippines claims the shoal as part of its exclusive economic zone under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

    “China’s sweeping claim of South China Sea under their nine-dash line purportedly historical boundary is illegal and is creating tension among nations,” the petition read.

    South China Sea

    “Google maps showing this is part of Zhongsha island chain gives credence to what is plainly a territory grab that peace loving nations should stand against.”

    The kerfuffle comes at a moment when tension between China and the Philippines over South China Sea territory is high, following months of rapid and dramatic land reclamation work by China on the Spratly Islands, another disputed archipelago.

    Last week the Philippines launched a case in the Permanent Court of Attribution in The Hague in an attempt to prove that China’s “nine-dash line” claim is incompatible with UNCLOS.

    SEE ALSO: The Philippines is parking warplanes at a US naval base in the South China Sea that's been dormant for 23 years

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    Screen shot of the video showing Russian-backed rebels going through bags as they inspect the scene of the MH17 crash

    Footage from the MH17 disaster shows Russian-backed rebels handling bodies and rummaging through the bags of dead passengers while expressing shock that the aircraft they brought down was a commercial aircraft.

    Describing the footage as "sickening to watch," Julie Bishop, Australia's foreign minister, said it was further evidence that the plane was deliberately targeted by a missile.

    "It is certainly consistent with the intelligence advice that we received 12 months ago, that Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 had been shot down by a surface-to-air missile," she told Channel Nine.

    "[The victims'] grief is inconsolable and the burden of grieving and then seeing this footage will be almost too much to bear."

    The footage appears to be an extended clip from video filmed and released last summer.

    The 17 minutes of footage, apparently smuggled out of a rebel base in Ukraine, was released by Sydney's Daily Telegraph on the anniversary of the attack, which left all 298 passengers and crew dead.

    The footage shows the uniformed rebels examining the contents of backpacks and collecting phones and other items as they try to find the black box.

    The rebels seem surprised that the aircraft was a commercial airliner, not a fighter jet, and can be heard saying "civilians, civilians," and "this is a passenger plane" in Russian.

    passenger plane gif Tony Abbott, Australia's prime minister, said the video further highlighted that "this was an atrocity; it was in no way an accident."

    "They may not have known that they were shooting down a passenger plane, but they were deliberately shooting out of the sky what they knew was a large aircraft," he told ABC News.

    "Rebels don't get hold of this kind of weaponry by accident. I mean, this was obviously very sophisticated weaponry. We are confident that it was weaponry that came across the border from Russia, fired, and then shortly thereafter, once it was realized what had happened, went back into Russia."

    mh17 gifAustralia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Malaysia, and Ukraine have been conducting a criminal investigation into the attack and have asked the United Nations Security Council to establish an international criminal tribunal to try those responsible. Twenty-eight Australian citizens and 10 residents were aboard the plane.

    Abbott urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to cooperate with those investigating the attack.

    "I am not suggesting that the Russian president knew anything about this in advance," he said. "I suspect, based on my own conversations with him last year, that he is horrified that all of this has happened."

    mh 17 gif plane

    This video fits with accounts of the crash but also sheds new light on the immediate aftermath of the crash.

    One fighter I met on the scene the following night said his unit had arrived shortly after the crash expecting to find the wreckage of a Ukrainian military aircraft and described being shocked at what he found.

    He also told me they had gone through belongings to look for documents — that appears to fit with this footage — but strongly denied looting.

    That fighter, as most others, said he was convinced the Ukrainians had shot down the aircraft, insisting that the separatists had no technology capable of reaching that altitude.

    The desperate search for the "black boxes" fits with an intercepted phone call earlier released by the Ukrainian Security Service, which it says is of a prominent separatist commander, Alexander Khodakovsky, instructing his men at the scene to find the flight recorders.buk rocket

    The separatists did recover the black boxes, and they handed them over to a Malaysian delegation in Donetsk on July 21, four days after the crash.

    There is also a lot of confusion. The talk about five parachutists, about the pilot "crawling" in Rosipnoye is typical of the chaos and muddled information you get in a war zone, especially in the aftermath of a big event like this.

    Often, it turns out to be half-true — the cockpit did come down in Rosipnoye, but the pilots would have been killed instantly. No one would have parachuted out of a civilian aircraft, but the search party was expecting to find military wreckage, and Ukrainian pilots and crew had survived shoot-downs and been captured in the past — so as confused reports come in, they set off to find the "parachutists."

    Screen shot of the video showing Russian-backed rebels arriving at the scene of the MH17 crashThen there is talk about a second aircraft — a Sukhoi jet that supposedly shot down MH17 and was in turn shot down by the separatists:

    As far as we know, there was no second shot-down plane — if a Sukhoi had been hit, the wreckage would have been found if not by the fighters, then by the army of journalists who shortly afterward descended on the area.

    Three things seem to be going on here:

    It could simply be a matter of confusion.

    It could be a quickly thought-up excuse, a cover story to tell civilians and journalists to excuse what had happened: the fighters getting their story straight.

    mh17

    But it could also be the quick work of a subconscious mind in denial.

    One of the features of the war in Ukraine is the ability of soldiers on either side to perform seemingly impossible feats of double-think in order to convince themselves of their virtue and their opponent's guilt.

    To take a depressingly mundane example: Ask a Ukrainian about the shelling of civilians in rebel-held areas, or a rebel about rocket attacks on Ukrainian-held towns, and they'll often tell you — with a straight face — that the enemy attacked themselves as a "provocation."

    Often, these are straight out, cynical lies by people who know are guilty. But equally often they appear to be the incredible yet genuinely believed excuses people tell themselves to avoid facing up to uncomfortable truths.

    It is that bizarre human ability that has made the lies and propaganda surrounding the war in Ukraine — and the MH17 tragedy — so effective, and deadly.

    Here is the full video:

    SEE ALSO: 298 PEOPLE KILLED AS PASSENGER PLANE SHOT DOWN IN EAST UKRAINE

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    greece graffitiOne day we will learn the full story of what went on at the top levels of the German government before the villenage of Greece last weekend.

    We already know that the EMU accord - if that is the right word – is an economic and diplomatic fiasco of the first order. It does serious damage to the moral credibility of the EU but resolves nothing.

    There is not the slightest chance that Greece will be able to stabilize its debt and return to viability under the Carthaginian settlement imposed on Alexis Tsipras - after 17 hours of psychological “water-boarding”, as one EU official put it.

    The latest paper by the International Monetary Fund has torn away the fig-leaf. The country needs a 30-year moratorium on debt payments and probably outright subsidies to recover from the devastation of the past six years.

    Instead it gets pro-cyclical fiscal contraction of 2pc of GDP by next year.

    Some are already comparing the terms to the Versailles Treaty but this does not quite capture the depravity of it. The demands imposed on Germany in 1919 were certainly vindictive and narrow-minded – as Keynes rightly alleged– but they were not, on the face of it, beyond reach.

    France was forced to pay reparations after the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 that were roughly equivalent to Versailles, albeit in very different circumstances. It dutifully did so, while plotting revenge.

    What Greece is being asked to do is scientifically impossible. Almost everybody involved in the talks knows this. Yet the lie goes on because the dysfunctional nature of EMU politics and governance makes it impossible to come clean. The country is dishonestly kept in a permanent state of crisis.

    Wolfgang Schauble is one of the very few figures who has behaved honorably in this latest chapter. As readers know, I have been highly critical of the hard-bitten finance minister for a long time, holding him directly responsible for the 1930s regime of debt-deflation and contraction imposed on much of Europe, and for refusing to accept that the eurozone's North-South divide must be closed by both sides. Any policy that puts all the burden of adjustment on the South is destructive and doomed to failure.

    But he is entirely right to argue that a velvet divorce and an orderly exit from the euro for five years would be a “better way” for Greece, as he did on German radio this morning.

    It would allow the country to regain competitiveness at a stroke without a disastrous over-shoot or the risk that events might spin out of control. It would clear the way for proper debt relief – or a standard IMF-style package.

    greek package

     

    If accompanied by some sort of Marshall Plan or investment blitz – as Mr Schauble appears to favor – it would set the foundations for genuine recovery.

    Huge sums of Greek money sitting on the sidelines would probably flood back into the country once the Grexit boil had been lanced. It is a pattern seen time and again in emerging markets across the world over the past 60 years.

    Instead, total confusion remains. “Nobody knows at the moment how this is supposed to work without a haircut and everybody knows that a haircut is incompatible with euro membership,” said Mr Schauble.

    To those who say that Grexit would violate the sanctity of monetary union – with incalculable political consequences - one can only reply that it is already too late. The moment Germany tabled its Grexit document over the weekend, the game was up. The euro has already been reduced to a transactional, fixed exchange bloc, subject to the whims of populist politics, shorn of idealism and solidarity.

    Mr Schauble has been pushing for Grexit since 2012, and probably earlier. He genuinely thinks it would better for all concerned. When he floated his plan, he meant it.

    tsipras merkelBut German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not mean it. She had the opposite purpose. There lies an enormous confusion.

    She has stated repeatedly that any splintering of the euro would be the beginning of the end for the European Project. She has said this so many times that her own credibility is on the line.

    Even if she was irritated by the Schauble paper – and her skirmishes with the irascible finance minister are legendary – she appears to have latched on to it as a useful negotiating ploy. The trick worked. It terrified Mr Tsipras into submission.

    So we now have the worst of all worlds. The deal is an atrocity. The crisis has not been resolved. The integrity of EMU has been breached. Greece has been publicly crushed and humiliated, yet for no purpose. The country cannot possibly meet the demands. There is no debt relief (other than a vague and worthless promise for the future).

    German diplomacy is in ruins. The world has reached the conclusion that Berlin broke ranks with fellow EU powers, and coldly threatened the ejection of an EMU member state. Great numbers of people across Europe think that Germany has pursued a narrow nationalist, agenda, and behaved like a bully.

    Mr Schauble’s original and Honorable intentions have been entirely misunderstood. The world’s verdict is that Germany's benign and enlightened statecraft in Europe over the past 60 years has given way to Bild Zeitung reflexes, the hegemony of crude populism.

    One can only feel sympathy for German diplomats who must clean up the mess and explain how this tangle of conflicting agendas spun escaped control.

    It is often said that the euro is talismanic for the Greeks: that it represents their admission as full and secure members of the European family, a political coin rather than a means of exchange.

    If so, it is hard to see how long that can remain the case after what has just happened, for it is by now obvious to many that EMU is in fact the instrument and symbol of Greek national degradation.

    Polls suggest that up to 80pc still want to stay in the euro. It is hard to know what weight to give these binary surveys since the 61pc landslide for "Oxi" and defiance in the referendum 10 days ago conveyed a different meaning.

    Oxi No protest GreeceBe that as it may, the Schauble plan is now on the table and everything has therefore changed. The Greek people are being offered a way out. Their illusions shattered, they might do well to approach the matter as a strict calculus of economic interest.

    It is not an easy moral choice. The rich have already moved their money abroad. They would make a windfall gain from devaluation, just as the Mexican elites did after the Tequila crisis.

    The rest of the country has stashed €40bn in secret hiding places, but most of their savings are still trapped in the banks. They would suffer a painful haircut under a switch to the drachma.

    But at the end of the day, you cannot set economic policy in the interests of savers. That way lies perdition. What matters in the long run is whether the country can return to trade equilibrium, sustained growth and full employment.

    Given the vicious stupidity of the deal reached last weekend, there can no longer be the slightest doubt that Greece can achieve these objectives only by taking up Mr Schauble’s offer – now German policy by default, whether Chancellor Merkel likes it or not.

    Those who argue that Greece was recovering last year and therefore can make it within a Teutonic euro are badly confused.

    Yes, there can be short-term cyclical upswings even for peripheral EMU economies stuck in depression with an overvalued exchange rate. Spain is enjoying one right now.

    But this is not recovery. The much-touted "internal devaluations" of these countries are deformed, and mostly a mirage. The underlying misalignment remains, certain to be exposed in the next global downturn.

    Greece will continue to endure its long Calvary until somebody has the courage to tell the Greek people – and to keep telling them until the truth sinks in – that the drachma is their best hope of economic renewal.

    All they are being told now is that any discussion of the drachma amounts to “treason”. If that is the level of intellectual debate, God help Greece.

    Mr Tsipras missed his chance on Sunday. He - or his successor – will surely be given another before long.

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    Europe travel Berlin

    Spain is the worst country in Europe for tourist scams, according to new research.

    More than one in five UK holidaymakers who visited the country in the last year became victims of misdemeanours from pickpockets to over-charging taxi drivers, a survey by financial comparison website money.co.uk found.

    France came second in the scam rankings, with 15 per cent of UK tourists experiencing scams, while Italy came third with 10 per cent. The UK was eighth in the top 10, with 5 per cent.

    A similar study from last year found that Barcelona was the worst city in Europe for scammers, with Paris and Rome following closely behind.

    The 13 most common holiday scams and how to avoid them

    Europe's worst countries for tourist scams

    Rank Country Percentage of Britons scammed
    1 Spain 21.5
    2 France 14.8
    3 Italy 10.2
    4 Turkey 8.4
    5 Austria 8.1
    6 Greece 7.5
    7 Belgium 7
    8 UK 5.4
    9= Armenia 4.4
    9= Cyprus 4.4

    The scams surveyed included pickpocketing, paying a hidden tourist tax on arrival at a hotel, hire car excess costs, pushy street vendors, overcharging taxi drivers and street crime, including burglary.

    Asking 2,000 Britons who had travelled to Europe in the last 12 months, Money.co.uk found that the most common scam UK tourists fell victim to was over-priced taxi rides, with 37 per cent experiencing it. A third (35 per cent) had paid out £11 to £15 in additional tourist tax on arrival at their hotel.

    Barcelona’s Las Ramblas has long been considered a hotspot for pickpockets, while the Louvre in Paris is also thought to be the location of choice for thieves. Telegraph Travel has previously reported on research that found that more than 80 per cent of UK tourists thought Britons were targeted for potential scamming opportunities .

    Roaming charges, wifi costs and fees for printing out boarding cards at the airports were said to be other sources of financial woe for Britons abroad, according to the survey.

    Nearly half (45 per cent) admitted to travelling without insurance.

     

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    Wolfgang Schaeuble

    Germany's finance minister, Wolfgang Schauble, has drawn opprobrium and praise in equal measure for his suggestion that Greece takes a "time-out" from the eurozone.

    In proposing that Greece could be better off outside the euro, the irascible 72-year-old crossed a political rubicon: he confirmed that the single currency was "reversible" after all.

    But having broken the euro's biggest taboo, commentators have now suggested that it should be Mr Schaeuble's Germany, rather than Greece, that should now take the plunge and ditch the euro.

    To stay close, Europe's nations may need to loosen the ties that bind them so tightly Ashoka Mody, former IMF bail-out chief

    Figures as esteemed as the former Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke used last week's decision to press ahead with a new, punishing bail-out for Greece as an opportunity to remind Germany of its responsibilities to the continent.

    Mr Bernanke took to his blog to highlight that Berlin's excessively tight fiscal policy has helped scupper the euro's dreams of prosperity and "ever-closer" integration between 18 disparate economies.

    In its latest assessment of Germany's economic strength, even the IMF (seen in many German circles as chief disciplinarian against the errant Greeks) urged Berlin to carry out"more ambitious action... and contribute to global rebalancing, particularly in the euro area".

    A botched rebalancing

    Germany's record trade surplus is held up as the main symptom of its dangerously preponderant position in the eurozone.

    A measure of the economy's position in relation to the rest of the world, Germany's current account hit a euro-area record of 7.9pc or €215bn in 2014. It is now expected to hit more than 8pc of GDP this year, according to the IMF.

    Germany Angela Merkel and Wolfgang SchaeubleThe persistently high surplus in part reflects the strength of Germany's much-vaunted export industries. But other contributing factors are reasons for concern. The IMF has said such chronic imbalance also reflects a "reluctance by the corporate sector to invest more in Germany".

    Persistent imbalances are unhealthy, reducing demand and growth in trading partners Ben Bernanke

    As Mr Bernanke also notes, the surplus puts "all the burden of adjustment on countries with trade deficits, who must undergo painful deflation of wages and other costs to become more competitive."

    Southern economies such as Greece are chief victims of the cost of this adjustment. But as the chart below shows, with Germany in the bloc, the eurozone's rebalancing act is going nowhere.

    The initial adjustment between debtor and creditor nations, which started in 2008, "has halted since 2012, and seems to be on the verge of reversing", find Standard & Poor's.

    The Black Zero

    The other problematic area of Germany's economy policy is the government's obsession over the "schwarze Null" or "black zero" policy to reach a balanced budget.

    Berlin managed to hit this magic target earlier this year. The "schwarze null" is held up as the cornerstone of German financial strength and stability in a perilous global environment, but has drawn criticism as yet another symptom of the eurozone's dysfunction.

    Economist Paul De Grauwe has dubbed it a quasi-religious "balanced-budget fundamentalism”.

    The fiscal rectitude has also fallen foul of the IMF's prescriptions for the German economy. The Fund recommends Berlin pump at least 2pc of GDP into investment projects over the next four years, a target which the government is consistently falling short of.

    Why a German exit would help

    Princeton economist and former IMF bail-out chief Ashoka Mody is among the most recent proponents of a German exit from the euro.

    Mr Mody notes that a return to the deutsche mark would provide a two-fold boost to the rest of the beleaguered eurozone: it would immediately cause the euro to plummet in value, stimulating exports in the southern periphery, and also cause far less disruption to the rest of the bloc than a potential Grexit.

    "A deutsche mark would buy more goods and services in Europe (and in the rest of the world) than does a euro today, the Germans would become richer in one stroke", writes Mr Mody.

    "Germany's assets abroad would be worth less in terms of the pricier deutsche marks, but German debts would be easier to repay."

    Outside the single currency, German industry would be forced to return to a pre-euro world, and continually adjust to the costs of an appreciating currency. But Mr Mody posits that this transition, although a big initial shock, would hardly be new for German businesses.

    A less competitive currency could also provide a much needed incentive for German industry to produce higher-quality products and improve sluggish productivity in the service sector, he adds.

    A design to shackle German strength

    Germany's economic prowess under the euro should not be over-estimated.

    One of the drivers behind its "fiscal fetishism" is a deep insecurity about the country's longer term economic prospects. Germany is one of the fastest ageing economies in the world, in need of mass immigration, more women in the labour force and a substantial boost to its birth-rate.

    And for all its relative economic strength, the euro was always at its heart a political construct designed to neuter a reunified Germany 25 years ago.

    Paradoxically, Mr Mody now says that a release from the shackles of the single currency could finally pave the way for Germany to act as the "benevolent hegemon" a functioning fixed-exhange rate system has always needed.

    "To stay close, Europe's nations may need to loosen the ties that bind them so tightly," he writes.

    Public appetite for a German euro exit is almost non-existent however. But having let the Grexit cat out of the bag, Mr Schaeuble and co. will have to suffer the fall-out from the assertion that the monetary union is no longer sacred.

     

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    isis child soldier

    In his former life, Abu Rafiq, a short, stocky 35-year-old who was born and raised in Damascus, ran a successful business selling groceries across Syria. Now he heads to work equipped with a camera phone. He walks the streets of Raqqa, the Syrian city that has become the self-styled capital of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) taking clandestine photographs and videos of anything that exposes the terrorists’ lies: bombed-out buildings, empty food stalls, homeless families. He then uploads the images to Twitter.

    The clicks of a camera phone in the Levant may seemingly have little to do with what David Cameron last week called “the struggle of our generation” in his speech on Britain’s new counter-extremism strategy, but Abu Rafiq is working on its front line. Raqqa is the heart of an Isil propaganda machine so vast and sophisticated it can seep into vulnerable young minds thousands of miles away. Some 5,000 European jihadists have fallen for its message, at least 700 of whom are British. In the past three years, the Metropolitan Police has removed nearly 60,000 pieces of terrorist online content.

    Rafiq and his men have been operating since the turn of the year. They aim to disrupt conversations between would-be jihadists and the so-called caliphate they profess to join. It is dangerous work – some activists have already been captured by Isil. Last week, according to the monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Isil shut down private Wi-Fi access across Raqqa, forcing people into public internet cafés, where they can be better monitored.

    “Isil only tell the world what they want but we want to tell people what is actually happening,” Abu Rafiq (his nom de guerre) says from an undisclosed location in his first interview with the British media.

    “We take as much as we can with our people on the ground, anything to counter what they say is the truth.

    “They use Twitter, so we go on Twitter to target their propaganda. It is very dangerous because they are everywhere, watching everything. But we will win in the end.”

    At present the terrorists are winning. Western authorities are still coming to grips with the sophistication of the slickly produced videos and social media profiles through which Isil preaches. Then there is the sheer amount. One study from respected US think-tank the Brookings Institution published in March uncovered 46,000 Twitter accounts being used by Isil supporters over the course of four months.

    isis cyber

    Separately, its various propaganda wings based within Isil-controlled territory are churning out feature-length “documentaries” with titles such as Flames of War, periodicals such as the glossy magazine Dabiq, recruitment nashids (hymns), short clips known as “Mujatweets” and even a jihadist computer game based on Grand Theft Auto.

    “Isil has taken it to the next level,” concedes Rob Wainwright, director of Europol. Earlier this month, the agency launched a Europe-wide unit to monitor and combat terrorist propaganda. “[Isil] will use different platforms at different times and move between them to regenerate material when we close them down,” he said.

    A study published in the journal Perspectives on Terrorism last month describes these online tactics as “swarmcasting” – operating in huge numbers across various social media platforms. One video published by the Isil propaganda wing al-I’tasimu last year was viewed 56,998 times within 24 hours of being posted on YouTube.

    isis propaganda

    The appeal lies in the quality of the production. The jihadists digitally enhance their movies so they are awash with colour, and explosions detonate in super-slow motion. Real battlefield footage is shot in HD using drones. Photographs the group releases are similarly crafted to draw in young Westerners. When Talha Asmal, a 17-year-old from Dewsbury, West Yorks, became Britain’s youngest suicide bomber in June after blowing himself up in a car bomb in Iraq, Isil released images of him standing by Toyota SUVs bedecked in Islamic State’s black flag.

    “There are now people in a central base who do editing for other parts of the Islamic State so they can churn these things out very quickly,” said Richard Barrett, a former counter-terrorism chief at both MI5 and MI6 and now senior vice-president at the Soufan Group, a security consultancy. He cites the appallingly stylised video of the mass murder of 21 Coptic Christians on a beach in Libya earlier this year – when the victims were marched along the sand in orange jumpsuits before being beheaded so the sea ran red with blood – as bearing all the hallmarks of Isil films made in Raqqa.

    According to Mr Barrett, and others, there is another more insidious element to the propaganda. Isil is pumping out masses of information each day on seemingly parochial matters from within the territory it controls: motorcycle licence regulations, street lighting, what is on sale in the local bazaar, all “to emphasise that it is operating a state”, Mr Barrett says.

    Meanwhile, the Tumblr blog Umm Layth, which is thought to belong to Aqsa Mahmood, the privately educated 20-year-old who fled her family home in Glasgow in 2013 for Syria and has since married a jihadist, published a checklist this week for women preparing for Hijrah, or “holy emigration”.

    This article was written by Joe Shute from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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    iran26

    Giant murals on the tower blocks of Tehran portray the bearded leaders and fresh-faced “martyrs” who fill the pages of Iran’s tempestuous modern history.

    Today, many Iranians hope the nuclear agreement with America will find its place among their country’s turning points. For Tehran's educated youth, the prospect of breaking free of isolation and escaping the burden of sanctions is nothing less than an opportunity for the renewal of life itself.

    “I was so happy when I heard about the nuclear agreement because I think that life will be better in Iran,” said Nasim, a 32-year-old business consultant. “It will be good for all the young people.”

    Over the past decade, millions of ordinary Iranians have endured the stagnation of their national economy, worsened by the grip of one of the most suffocating sanctions regimes ever devised.

    The prospect of that dismal period drawing to a close means far more to Iranians than Westerners may readily understand. Commentators in America or Britain debate the nuclear deal in dry strategic terms, but some Iranians already talk about two eras: “before” and “after” the accord signed in Vienna on July 14.

    For Nasim, her livelihood may be at stake. Her employer has dispensed with almost 10 per cent of the company’s workforce in the past year alone, in common with many other businesses.

    Her elder sister, Naghmeh, works for a firm which has sacked half its personnel since 2012. Most of the two sisters’ friends are among the burgeoning ranks of the educated unemployed.

    ”We know we are the lucky ones who have jobs,” said Naghmeh, 36. “Most of our friends are not working – and not from their own choice. Of the people we know, 90 per cent are happy about the nuclear deal. Everybody is expecting things to change and new jobs to come.”

    Any visitor quickly realises how sanctions and economic stagnation have inflicted the most pain upon educated and ambitious young Iranians. Countless graduates have left university only to shoulder the Herculean task of finding a job in an economy which the world’s most powerful countries have done their best to cripple. Iran’s own burden of domestic corruption and mismanagement has aided the destructive endeavour of those imposing the sanctions.

    iran20

    The options for graduates who can find no position in the formal economy are straightforward. After their four-year degree, they can go back to university and do a postgraduate course for another two years – but only if their families can support them.

    Otherwise, they leave Iran – and thousands emigrate every year – or scrape a living in the twilight zone of the economy. Many graduates take up unfulfilling careers as “pseudo taxi-drivers”, in the common phrase. They use the family car to earn meagre sums ferrying people around Tehran’s traffic-clogged streets. Others find menial and temporary work in shops.

    They cannot expect social security benefits or training from the state. Asked who helps the unemployed, one graduate replied: “Only God.”

    Those in Tehran must find somewhere to live in a vast capital, where grand boulevards carve their way through forbidding canyons of tower blocks.

    Most of the city’s 14 million people inhabit cramped apartments, often filled with several generations of the same family. Rents are so high that even people with jobs find it difficult to secure their own places. Parents, children, grandparents and relatives end up living together.

    The city's drabness is relieved by murals on the tower blocks, which often display the regime’s favourite slogans. One such has covered an entire building overlooking a six-lane highway with a pastiche of the American flag, the stars transformed into rows of skulls and the stripes into falling bombs. “Down with the USA,” reads the English slogan.

    iran18

    The parks offer surreal examples of public art. One is adorned with a plastic model of a vintage car, painted pink and white; another bears a sculpture of a pole vaulter in mid-air; yet another has a model of an elderly man with a white beard riding on top of a black cow.

    All around, long straight avenues are crammed with traffic, including buses segregated by gender. Women sit at the back, with men in the front seats.

    How many of the passengers are going to work – and how many are unemployed, students, or “pseudo taxi-drivers” – is impossible to tell.

    In all these years of nuclear-tipped confrontation the country been unable to make full use of its fabulous endowment of natural wealth: the second largest reserves of natural gas in the world, and the fourth largest of oil.

    What makes the deal so significant is the possibility of escaping this predicament.

    The endless negotiations that preceded the Vienna agreement were closely followed. When the accord was finally announced, spontaneous street parties took place in Tehran and elsewhere . Iran’s rulers generally disapprove of public gatherings, unless for prayers or state occasions, but did not stand in the way.

    Ali Mojallali works for a trading company and happened to be on a business trip to the city of Mashhad when the news arrived. Jubilant crowds flooded the public highway – and police obligingly stopped the traffic.

    ”It should have taken me 20 minutes to get back to my hotel, but I was stuck in traffic for more than two hours because all the people were in the streets,” said Mr Mojallali, 27. “Our economy is like a person who has all kinds of cancer and needs special medicine.”

    The central question is whether the deal will unlock the recovery for which Iranians yearn .

    So far, none of the most crippling sanctions has been lifted. Iran must curtail its nuclear programme before America and its allies “terminate” their oil and financial embargoes.

    In practice, this means Iran will have to place two thirds of its centrifuges in storage, export 98 per cent of its low-enriched uranium and redesign a heavy water reactor. These tasks will probably take at least six months.

    Even when they have been completed, recovery will be slow and painstaking, according to Majid Zamani, the chief executive of Tehran's Kardan Investment Bank.

    ”Every Iranian with contacts abroad is being approached by people who want to do some business here,” he said. “But none of them, so far, is ready to put money in anything serious or engage in any economic activity. We are having a lot of tasting and seeing and researching – but not anything material in terms of doing business.”

    iran30

    International companies are waiting for sanctions to go before they commit serious money. In any case, the country has a limited ability to absorb outside capital. At present, Iran possesses fewer than 10 small private investment banks and a tiny stock exchange which, in practice, excludes foreign capital.

    Lifting sanctions will not, of itself, transform Iran’s economy, warned Mr Zamani. Achieving this will also require reform of a state-dominated system.

    But the deal was still the one essential precondition for everything else to happen. “We were in a situation where we couldn’t realise the whole potential of this country – be it our talent, our oilfields, whatever,” said Mr Zamani. “In this deal, Iranian leaders showed, I think, some moderation and wisdom, and on the US side as well. It shows that current leaders are ready to redefine this relationship once and forever.

    “That is why people are so affected by this deal," he added. "Nothing overnight, but in the long term it could turn Iran from being what Westerners call a ‘rogue state’ to a country with a positive role in the region – and with that positive role could come economic prosperity and better welfare for the people.”

    The agreement may also accelerate one established trend that Iran’s leaders may find deeply unsettling. Fewer of their compatriots have much sympathy for the regime’s constant fulminations against foreign powers; fewer still are prepared to join the ritual chants of “death to America”.

    In the early years of the 1979 Islamic revolution, the new rulers’ anti-Americanism was in tune with the sentiments of many Iranians who remembered with bitterness how Washington and its allies had supported the Shah’s tyranny.

    The old US Embassy, where 52 diplomats were held hostage for 444 days between 1979 and 1981, is still festooned with the iconography of that tumultuous era. Murals on the red brick wall display the Statue of Liberty as a hideous skeleton, the Star and Stripes as a menacing handgun.

    The embassy’s official crest is still visible near the old entrance, except that its Bald Eagle has been obliterated by the blows of countless chisels.

    But the generation which saw America as a natural enemy has faded away, leaving today’s Iranians with opinions far more complex than the garish displays might suggest.

    Sadegh Zibakalam, a professor of political science at Tehran University, said popular attitudes towards the United States had undergone a “historic transformation”.

    ”The slogan ‘death to America’ no longer echoes widely among educated Iranians,” he added. “As a professor at Tehran University, I would tell you that less than 10 per cent of students support the slogan ‘death to America’ – and many of those 10 per cent are thinking of political careers. But even among that 10 per cent, I’m not sure how genuine their anti-American sentiment is.”

    Prof Zibakalam said the nuclear agreement would ease Iran’s path away from the slogans of the past. “Assuming this deal goes through, there’s no reason for the leadership to accuse the West of causing problems in Iran,” he said.

    A significant faction do not have any enthusiasm for the deal; they look with horror upon the concessions that have been made, and the new constraints on Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, has not explicitly endorsed the agreement– but nor has he opposed it, meaning Iran will probably fulfil its side of the bargain.

    If so, Prof Zibakalam has no doubt about the importance of this moment. “Future historians will refer to the nuclear deal as a landmark,” he said. “They will write that post the nuclear agreement, this happened and that happened.”

    One day, perhaps, the Vienna agreement will be commemorated by a new mural in Tehran.

    This article was written by David Blair Tehran from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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    Much-loved Zimbabwean lion

    Cecil the lion – the most famous creature in one of Zimbabwe's national parks – was killed by an American hunter who has boasted about shooting a menagerie of animals with his bow and arrow, The Telegraph can reveal.

    Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, is believed to have paid £35,000 (about $55,000) to shoot and kill the much-loved lion with a bow and arrow. The animal was shot on July 1 in Hwange National Park. Two independent sources have confirmed the hunter's identity to the paper, which has also seen a copy of the relevant hunting permit.

    Conservation groups in Zimbabwe reacted angrily to the news that the 13-year-old animal had been killed: partly because the lion was known to visitors and seemingly enjoyed human contact, and partly because of the way in which he was killed. He was lured out of the national park and shot.

    "He never bothered anybody," said Johnny Rodrigues, the head of Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force . "He was one of the most beautiful animals to look at."

    A spokesman for Mr Palmer said that the hunter believed he may have shot the lion.

    “As far as I understand, Walter believes that he might have shot that lion that has been referred to as Cecil,” the spokesman said.

    “What he’ll tell you is that he had the proper legal permits and he had hired several professional guides, so he’s not denying that he may be the person who shot this lion. He is a big-game hunter; he hunts the world over.”

    During the hunt – which the organisers later admitted was badly carried out – it was alleged that Cecil was lured at night about half a mile out of the national park using bait, and then shot with a bow and arrow. The next day he was found wounded by the hunters and killed, before being beheaded and skinned.

    Animals cannot be killed within the confines of the park. The hunters then removed his collar – further contravening park rules.

    The professional hunter, Theo Bronkhorst, said he reported the "mistake" to the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority the following day, and it is now being investigated. The landowner bordering the national park has been charged - along with Mr Bronkhorst. Both are due to appear in court on August 6.

    On Tuesday, Zimbabwe National Parks issued a statement confirming the charges.

    "Theo Bronkhorst, a professional hunter with Bushman Safaris, is facing criminal charges for allegedly killing a collared lion on Antoinette farm in Gwayi Conservancy, Hwange district on 1 July 2015," the statement said.

    "All persons implicated in this case are due to appear in court facing poaching charges.

    "Both the professional hunter and land owner had no permit or quota to justify the offtake of the lion and therefore are liable for the illegal hunt."

    Mr Bronkhorst, who will appear at Hwange magistrates court on Wednesday, said he was unaware of Cecil's fame.

    "It was a magnificent, mature lion. We did not know it was well-known lion. I had a licence for my client to shoot a lion with a bow and arrow in the area where it was shot," he said.

    Mr Rodrigues said the authorities in Zimbabwe were troubled by events.

    "There's considerable embarrassment about this - the Americans have banned the import of elephant trophies," he said. "We believe the head and pelt are still in Bulawayo.

    "They should be charged with poaching," he said. "If you're a local and you kill an animal without a licence you get between two and five years in prison."

    Mr Palmer, the client, describes himself as coming from North Dakota and having "a unique talent for creating dazzling smiles that complement each individuals tooth structure, skin tone, and facial attributes." A request for comment left with his office had not yet been returned on Tuesday.

    His website states that : "Anything allowing him to stay active and observe and photograph wildlife is where you will find Dr Palmer when he not in the office."

    He also has a well-documented fondness for shooting wild animals around the globe.

    "He came to Spain to hunt with us four or five years ago," said Guiseppe Carrizosa, a professional hunter based in Madrid. Mr Carrizosa told The Telegraph that Mr Palmer and his wife travelled to Europe to shoot chamois, fallow deer and ibex, among other animals. Mr Palmer's reputation is such that he was listed as a client on Mr Carrizosa's website, to publicise the tours.

    "He was a real expert shot," Mr Carrizosa said. "Bow hunting attracts people because there is much more stalking involved; you have to get very close. With a gun you can kill an animal from hundreds of metres."

    Hunting blogs feature images of him proudly showing off a 175lb leopard, which he killed with an arrow in Zimbabwe in the summer of 2010.

    Other images show him posing with elk, and even with a huge endangered sheep – the Nevada Bighorn.

    California Desert Bighorn Sheep are one of the most coveted animals for hunters. Each year more than $200,000 is raised by the auction of the permits to shoot dead three Desert Bighorn Sheep.

    A New York Times report detailing one of Mr Palmer's hunts, in 2009, described him as "capable of skewering a playing card from 100 yards with his compound bow." He jokingly told the reporter that his life revolved around shooting, and that he "doesn't have a golf game".

    The paper said that, having learnt to shoot at the age of five, Mr Palmer paid $45,000 at an auction for the right to shoot an elk in 2009, in a sale promoted as financing preservation of the elk habitat.

    The father of two had, according to the paper, killed all but one of the animals listed in records produced by bow hunting group Pope and Young. The animals on the list include polar bears, bison, grizzly bears and cougars.

    "Of course, it is a personal achievement to harvest any big-game animal with a bow and arrow,"said Glen Hisey, the curator of the Pope and Young records programme. "It is a way of honouring that animal for all time."

    Mr Palmer has also run into legal woes. In 2008, court records show, he pleaded guilty to making a false statement to federal wildlife officials concerning the exact location of the slaying of a black bear during a guided hunt in Wisconsin. He was sentenced to a year probation.

    Lion hunting using firearms is legal in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Tanzania – and bow and arrow hunting is legal in all the same countries but Tanzania.

    Cecil Lion

    Individual hunting outfits are given a certain number of permits each year to hunt individual species, but in countries like Zimbabwe the system is also open to corruption.

    According to the Zimbabwe Professional Hunter and Guides Association, bow hunting is only permissible in private hunting concessions or communal hunting areas - never in a national park or government-controlled safari area.

    Lions are hunted either statically, by hanging bait from a tree then hiding nearby, or by stalking. According to Zimbabwean conservationists, hunting by bow and arrow is on the increase because is it silent and therefore those hunting illegally or unethically are not detected by the authorities.

    The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University has tracked the Hwange lions since 1999 to measure the impact of sport hunting beyond the park on the lion population within the park, using radar and direct observation.

    According to figures published by National Geographic, 34 of their 62 tagged lions died during the study period – 24 were shot by sport hunters.

    Dr Andrew Loveridge, one of the principal researchers on the project, told the publication that Cecil and another male lion named Jericho led two prides with six lionesses and a dozen young cubs, and he feared for the safety of the cubs now Cecil had been killed .

    "Jericho as a single male will be unable to defend the two prides and cubs from new males that invade the territory. This is what we most often see happening in these cases. Infanticide is the most likely outcome," he said.

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    recep tayyip erdogan

    A spate of ISIL terrorist attacks against Turkey is the reason President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to allow US warplanes access to Turkish air bases

    First, the good news. After months of dithering, the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has given his approval for America to use the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey to mount air strikes against Islamic State (Isil) positions across the border in Syria.

    Nearly a year after coalition planes began bombing Isil forces in Syria and Iraq, there is already much excitement being expressed in Washington that the Turkish decision could prove to be a game-changer in the campaign to defeat the Islamist menace. It will allow coalition forces to monitor more closely Turkey’s 500-mile border with Syria, which has been the main conduit through which Isil has smuggled arms and recruits, as well as enabling American warplanes to respond more quickly against likely Isil targets.

    The bad news, though, is that the Turks’ decision has been somewhat undermined by Ankara’s renewal of hostilities against its long-standing foe, the Syrian Kurds .

    The Syrian conflict is complicated enough without the Turks confusing matters even more by opening up another front against the Kurds, the majority of whom are seen as vital allies of the West.

    On one side you have the Assad regime desperately trying to cling to power with the help of their allies in Tehran and the Iranian-backed Hizbollah militia in southern Lebanon. On the other, you have an estimated 1,200 Syrian opposition groups trying to lay claim to Damascus, with Isil and other more moderate ones, such as the Syrian Free Army, leading the charge.

    Amid this chaotic landscape, the Syrian Kurds are one of the few combatant groups that have proved themselves to be heroic allies of the West’s cause. Backed by American air strikes, the Kurds fought valiantly to reclaim the strategically important border town of Kobani after it had been captured by Isil last year, one of the few high points for the West in a campaign that has otherwise failed to impress.

    turkey syriaSo the fact that Turkish planes are now bombing Kurdish positions in Syria, as well as those belonging to Isil, is counter-productive to the coalition effort, to say the least. In their defence, the Turks say they are only attacking positions held by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, an extreme nationalist group that has a long history of committing acts of terrorism against Turkish citizens, as a result of which it is officially designated a terrorist organisation by a number of states and organisations, including the US and Nato.

    Before the Syrian civil war erupted four years ago, the PKK enjoyed the active support of the Assad regime, so much so that on several occasions Syria and Turkey came close to hostilities.

    This bad blood was one of the reasons that Mr Erdogan aligned himself with the struggle to overthrow the Assad regime, an alliance that has prompted accusations that Ankara has colluded with Isil militants in Iraq.

    The Turks’ ambivalent relationship with Isil, as well as their insistence that the coalition should concentrate its efforts should on removing Assad, have been the main stumbling blocks to closer cooperation between Ankara and the US.

    Now, so far as Ankara’s dealings with Isil are concerned, the Turks are paying a heavy price for their double standards. The Isil suicide bomb attack against the border town of Suruc this month, in which 32 people were killed and 100 injured, has finally persuaded Mr Erdogan’s government that Isil poses just as great a threat to Turkey’s security as it does to the rest of the region.

    turkey surucBut if the Suruc bombing, together with a number of other Isil cross-border attacks against the Turkish military, has been the catalyst for Mr Erdogan’s change of heart, the Turks’ obsession with the Kurds means they are still a long way from becoming reliable allies.

    As James Clapper, the US director of intelligence, notably remarked during a recent briefing to Congress, Turkey has “other priorities and other interests” so far as the Syrian conflict is concerned.

    Mr Erdogan’s determination to confront the Kurds, moreover, has deepened as a result of the strong showing by the moderate Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in last month’s parliamentary elections, which dealt the president a severe blow as his Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its overall majority for the first time in more than a decade.

    Mr Erdogan is desperate to regain ground against the Kurds, and many opposition politicians see his sudden enthusiasm for reopening hostilities with the PKK as a clumsy attempt to portray Kurds – be they Turkish, Syrian or Iraq – as being sympathetic to the PKK’s terrorist agenda.

    erdogan turkeyThe tactic may help Mr Erdogan to regain his parliamentary majority, but it will do nothing to assist the coalition war effort against Isil.

    What Mr Erdogan needs to understand it that, even if the Turks disown Isil, they cannot bomb the Kurds and still be considered dependable allies.

    Syrian/Turkish relations: A timeline Turkey is being dragged further into the four-year conflict in neighbouring Syria following a deadly suicide attack, blamed on Isil, that killed 32 activists near the border.

    September 13, 2011:"The Syrian people do not believe al-Assad, I do not either," says Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then premier, a few months after calling the Syrian leader his "friend". Mr Erdogan warns of civil war in Syria.

    October 2, 2011: Following a series of meetings in several Turkish cities, Syrian opposition leaders announce the creation of the Syrian National Council (SNC), which groups political factions opposed to the Assad regime.

    November 15, 2011: Turkey passes its first sanctions against Syria, and halts joint oil exploration with the country.

    June 22, 2012: A Turkish plane that Ankara says was on a training mission in international airspace is shot down by Syrian forces.

    May 11, 2013: Twin attacks kill 52 people in Reyhanli, a large Turkish town near the border with Syria.

    September 16, 2014: Isil militants attack the Syrian border town of Kobane, and seize parts of it. Kobane becomes the scene of fierce battles.

    May 16, 2015: Turkey says it has shot down a Syrian helicopter that violated its airspace.

    July 20, 2015: At least 32 people die when a suspected Isil suicide bomber attacks a gathering of activists in the town of Suruc, near the Syrian/Turkish border. July 22, 2015 The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) claims the killing of two Turkish policemen in the border town of Ceylanpinar in revenge for the Suruc massacre.A government spokesman denounces the murders as "a terrorist act perpetrated by a terrorist organisation."

    July 23, 2015: Jihadists inside Syria open fire on a Turkish army border post in the Kilis region, killing a non-commissioned officer and wounding two soldiers. In Diyarbakir, a majority Kurdish city in south-eastern Turkey, gunmen kill a Turkish policeman and seriously wound another.

    July 24, 2015: Turkish F-16 jets hit Isil targets just inside Syria for the first time, killing nine Isil militants. Late in the day, airstrikes also target PKK militants in northern Iraq.

    July 25, 2015: Turkish air strikes intensify against Isil jihadists in Syria and PKK militants in Iraq.

    July 26, 2015: Ankara launches F-16 attacks for the third day, striking Kurdish command posts in northern Iraq. Turkish protesters battle security forces in Istanbul, a policeman is shot and killed. Turkey asks for an extraordinary Nato meeting to discuss its cross-border offensive, but has not asked for help, the group's chief says.

    July 27, 2015: Turkish tanks pound a Kurdish-held village in northern Syria, wounding at least four fighters and several villagers, Kurdish groups and a Syrian monitor say, while a Turkish official maintains the army is not targeting Syrian Kurds.

    This article was written by Con Coughlin Defence Editor from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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