Sunday news round-up: February 9th-15th

An ongoing series that gathers some main headlines from the week, for people too busy to keep an eye on the news.

Top Story: Atheist executes three Muslims in North Carolina terror attack: A young Muslim family of three have been brutally murdered by a self-described “atheist for equality” in Chapel Hill. The killer, Craig Stephen Hicks, regularly used Facebook to promote an anti-religious platform and listed Richard Dawkins’ best-seller The God Delusion as a favourite book. Mainstream media coverage on the hate crime has been notably absent, and the incident comes as the latest in a recent string of Islamophobic hate crimes and assaults across the Western world. Of course, the mainstream media decided to invite the wife of the killer to explain away his crimes on national television. Despite her protestations that this triple homicide was over a “parking dispute”, this remains a vicious hate crime against Muslims, plain and simple.

World leaders agree to Ukrainian ceasefire: Tense negotiations in Minsk, Belarus, have produced what hopes to be a ceasefire in the Ukrainian crisis. The ceasefire, which will go into effect at midnight on the 15th February, includes the removal of heavy weapons from the Ukrainian-Russian border and the resumption of normal economic relations, according to French President François Hollande. Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are expected to pressure the EU to agree to the ceasefire, while Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed that the crisis would not be over without “constitutional reform” for the people of the Donbass region.

NSA and GCHQ data sharing breached human rights, tribunal finds: The intelligence sharing operations conducted by the UK and U.S. was illegal during the bulk of its operation, the secretive Investigatory Powers Tribunal has found. Ruling on a claim brought by various civil liberty groups, the IPT ruled that sharing data between the NSA and GCHQ violated the European Court of Human Rights statutes that ensure the right to privacy and freedom of expression. The ruling also found that citizens were not aware of the proper safeguards in place, should their information be shared across the Atlantic. Two of the programmes in question, Prism and Upstream, were kept entirely secret until whistle-blower Edward Snowden brought their existence to public knowledge.

Antarctic ice melt passes “point of no return”: According to climatologists, glaciers in West Antarctica seem to be experiencing an irreversible melt which could push up sea levels for centuries to come. Warming waters around the glaciers have eaten away at the permanent ice sheets, and it’s thought that global warming is to blame. Eric Rignot of the University of California, Irvine stated; “a large sector of the West Antarctic ice sheet has gone into a state of irreversible retreat”.

Britain introduces plans to block anti-Semites from social media: Citing a worrying rise in anti-Semitism on the internet, a group of MPs have called on a committee which deals with anti-Semitism to see if current rules allowing the government to block paedophiles can be used against anti-Semites. Twitter hashtags like #HitlerWasRight and #Holocaust were repeatedly used during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, which left 2,100 people dead (500 of them children), prompting the committee to draw up recommendations to get these people banned from posting online. The government’s response to the civilian deaths in the Gaza Strip was sadly not as passionate as its response to online anti-Semitism, with Prime Minister David Cameron reaffirming his support for Israel’s “right to defend itself”.

First ever Palestinian embassy to be set up in Western Europe: Sweden has become the first Western European nation to allow a Palestinian embassy to be set up, and has promised an increased aid package to parts of the territories. This comes at a time when the legislatures of many W. European governments – including the UK, Spain, and France – have voted to recognize Palestine as a state. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman criticized the move on the basis that Palestine is not a state, and remains adamant that only direct negotiations with Palestinians will end the conflict. He states this despite his delegation not turning up to some ceasefire proposals last year due to religious reasons. Apparently, dropping bombs doesn’t conflict with Lieberman’s beliefs, but making peace does.

  • Related: Gaza Strip on the verge of collapse, aid groups warn: Several aid groups including the UNRWA have warned that the situation in Gaza has become unbearable for many people. Citing Israel’s latest assault on the strip last year, the UNRWA estimates that over 100,000 homes were fully or partially damaged, and tens of thousands of Palestinians are living without adequate shelter. To make matters worse, many world governments failed to provide the aid they promised to the Gaza Strip, with “virtually none” of the pledged $5.4 billion reaching Gaza.
  • Related: Palestinian activist killed in Syria: Amid conflicting reports that Kayla Mueller had been killed by a Jordanian airstrike, the Pentagon has assured the world that there is “no doubt” she was killed by ISIS. A U.S. citizen, Mueller was also a Palestinian activist who often tried to prevent the takeover of homes by Israeli settlers, and intervened regularly in the demolition of homes in the West Bank. Although an unapologetic ally of Israeli apartheid, President Obama claimed that Mueller “represents what is best about America”.
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