Palestinian shot in clashes with Israeli troops dies: ministry

Palestinian protesters evacuate an injured man during confrontaions with Israeli forces in the town of Beita, near the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, on July 23, 2021, after a protest against the Israeli outpost of Eviatar. (AFP)
Updated 24 July 2021

Palestinian shot in clashes with Israeli troops dies: ministry

JERUSALEM: A Palestinian teenager has died after being shot during clashes with Israeli soldiers at a protest over illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian authorities said Saturday.
Seventeen-year-old Mohammed Munir al-Tamimi, who suffered gunshot wounds, died later in hospital, the Palestinian health ministry said, a day after the violence in the flashpoint Palestinian village of Beita.
The Red Crescent said 320 Palestinians were injured in the clashes, including 21 by live fire, 68 by rubber-tipped bullets and many others by tear gas.
Hundreds of Palestinians had gathered in the afternoon in the village of Beita, a hot spot in recent months, to protest against the wildcat settlement of Eviatar, located nearby, an AFP photographer said.
The Israeli army said its soldiers had responded "with riot dispersal means" after Palestinians hurled rocks at them.
Israel said two of its soldiers were "lightly injured" in the violence.
Beita has been the scene of frequent unrest since May, when dozens of Israeli families arrived and began building the settlement on a hilltop near Nablus in defiance of Israeli and international law.
After weeks of clashes and tensions, the government of nationalist Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett struck a deal with the settlers that saw them leave the Eviatar outpost.
The settlers left behind the rudimentary homes they built until the Israeli defence ministry determines whether the land can be considered state territory.
The Israeli military is maintaining a presence in Eviatar until the decision is made.
The agreement was rejected by the mayor of Beita, who said on Thursday that "clashes and protests will continue" as long as any Israeli "remains on our land".
All Jewish settlements in the West Bank are regarded as illegal by most of the international community.


Neo-Nazis are still on Facebook. And they’re making money

Members of the National Socialist Movement (NSM) and other white nationalists rally at Greenville Street Park in Newnan, Georgia. (File/AFP)
Updated 1 min 3 sec ago

Neo-Nazis are still on Facebook. And they’re making money

  • By carefully toeing the line of propriety, these key architects of Germany’s far-right use the power of mainstream social media to promote festivals, fashion brands, music labels and mixed martial arts tournaments that can generate millions in sales
  • Dozens of far-right groups that continue to leverage mainstream social media for profit, despite Facebook’s and other platforms’ repeated pledges to purge themselves of extremism

BRUSSELS: It’s the premier martial arts group in Europe for right-wing extremists. German authorities have twice banned their signature tournament. But Kampf der Nibelungen, or Battle of the Nibelungs, still thrives on Facebook, where organizers maintain multiple pages, as well as on Instagram and YouTube, which they use to spread their ideology, draw in recruits and make money through ticket sales and branded merchandise.
The Battle of the Nibelungs — a reference to a classic heroic epic much loved by the Nazis — is one of dozens of far-right groups that continue to leverage mainstream social media for profit, despite Facebook’s and other platforms’ repeated pledges to purge themselves of extremism.
All told, there are at least 54 Facebook profiles belonging to 39 entities that the German government and civil society groups have flagged as extremist, according to research shared with The Associated Press by the Counter Extremism Project, a non-profit policy and advocacy group formed to combat extremism. The groups have nearly 268,000 subscribers and friends on Facebook alone.
CEP also found 39 related Instagram profiles, 16 Twitter profiles and 34 YouTube channels, which have gotten over 9.5 million views. Nearly 60 percent of the profiles were explicitly aimed at making money, displaying prominent links to online shops or photos promoting merchandise.
Click on the big blue “view shop” button on the Erik & Sons Facebook page and you can buy a T-shirt that says, “My favorite color is white,” for 20 euros ($23). Deutsches Warenhaus offers “Refugees not welcome” stickers for just 2.50 euros ($3) and Aryan Brotherhood tube scarves with skull faces for 5.88 euros ($7). The Facebook feed of OPOS Records promotes new music and merchandise, including “True Aggression,” “Pride & Dignity,” and “One Family” T-shirts. The brand, which stands for “One People One Struggle,” also links to its online shop from Twitter and Instagram.
The people and organizations in CEP’s dataset are a who’s who of Germany’s far-right music and combat sports scenes. “They are the ones who build the infrastructure where people meet, make money, enjoy music and recruit,” said Alexander Ritzmann, the lead researcher on the project. “It’s most likely not the guys I’ve highlighted who will commit violent crimes. They’re too smart. They build the narratives and foster the activities of this milieu where violence then appears.”
CEP said it focused on groups that want to overthrow liberal democratic institutions and norms such as freedom of the press, protection of minorities and universal human dignity, and believe that the white race is under siege and needs to be preserved, with violence if necessary. None has been banned, but almost all have been described in German intelligence reports as extremist, CEP said.
On Facebook the groups seem harmless. They avoid blatant violations of platform rules, such as using hate speech or posting swastikas, which is generally illegal in Germany.
By carefully toeing the line of propriety, these key architects of Germany’s far-right use the power of mainstream social media to promote festivals, fashion brands, music labels and mixed martial arts tournaments that can generate millions in sales and connect like-minded thinkers from around the world.
But simply cutting off such groups could have unintended, damaging consequences.
“We don’t want to head down a path where we are telling sites they should remove people based on who they are but not what they do on the site,” said David Greene, civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco.
Giving platforms wide latitude to sanction organizations deemed undesirable could give repressive governments leverage to eliminate their critics. “That can have really serious human rights concerns,” he said. “The history of content moderation has shown us that it’s almost always to the disadvantage of marginalized and powerless people.”
German authorities banned the Battle of the Nibelungs event in 2019, on the grounds that it was not actually about sports, but instead was grooming fighters with combat skills for political struggle.
In 2020, as the coronavirus raged, organizers planned to stream the event online — using Instagram, among other places, to promote the webcast. A few weeks before the planned event, however, over a hundred black-clad police in balaclavas broke up a gathering at a motorcycle club in Magdeburg, where fights were being filmed for the broadcast, and hauled off the boxing ring, according to local media reports.
The Battle of the Nibelungs is a “central point of contact” for right-wing extremists, according to German government intelligence reports. The organization has been explicit about its political goals — namely to fight against the “rotting” liberal democratic order — and has drawn adherents from across Europe as well as the United States.
Members of a California white supremacist street fighting club called the Rise Above Movement, and its founder, Robert Rundo, have attended the Nibelungs tournament. In 2018 at least four Rise Above members were arrested on rioting charges for taking their combat training to the streets at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. A number of Battle of Nibelungs alums have landed in prison, including for manslaughter, assault and attacks on migrants.
National Socialism Today, which describes itself as a “magazine by nationalists for nationalists” has praised Battle of the Nibelungs and other groups for fostering a will to fight and motivating “activists to improve their readiness for combat.”
But there are no references to professionalized, anti-government violence on the group’s social media feeds. Instead, it’s positioned as a health-conscious lifestyle brand, which sells branded tea mugs and shoulder bags.
“Exploring nature. Enjoying home!” gushes one Facebook post above a photo of a musclebound guy on a mountaintop wearing Resistend-branded sportswear, one of the Nibelung tournament’s sponsors. All the men in the photos are pumped and white, and they are portrayed enjoying wholesome activities such as long runs and alpine treks.
Elsewhere on Facebook, Thorsten Heise – who has been convicted of incitement to hatred and called “one of the most prominent German neo-Nazis” by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in the German state of Thuringia — also maintains multiple pages.
Frank Kraemer, who the German government has described as a “right-wing extremist musician,” uses his Facebook page to direct people to his blog and his Sonnenkreuz online store, which sells white nationalist and coronavirus conspiracy books as well as sports nutrition products and “vaccine rebel” T-shirts for girls.
Battle of the Nibelungs declined to comment. Resistend, Heise and Kraemer didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Facebook told AP it employs 350 people whose primary job is to counter terrorism and organized hate, and that it is investigating the pages and accounts flagged in this reporting.
“We ban organizations and individuals that proclaim a violent mission, or are engaged in violence,” said a company spokesperson, who added that Facebook had banned more than 250 white supremacist organizations, including groups and individuals in Germany. The spokesperson said the company had removed over 6 million pieces of content tied to organized hate globally between April and June and is working to move even faster.
Google said it has no interest in giving visibility to hateful content on YouTube and was looking into the accounts identified in this reporting. The company said it worked with dozens of experts to update its policies on supremacist content in 2019, resulting in a five-fold spike in the number of channels and videos removed.
Twitter says it’s committed to ensuring that public conversation is “safe and healthy” on its platform and that it doesn’t tolerate violent extremist groups. “Threatening or promoting violent extremism is against our rules,” a spokesperson told AP, but did not comment on the specific accounts flagged in this reporting.
Robert Claus, who wrote a book on the extreme right martial arts scene, said that the sports brands in CEP’s data set are “all rooted in the militant far-right neo-Nazi scene in Germany and Europe.” One of the founders of the Battle of the Nibelungs, for example, is part of the violent Hammerskin network and another early supporter, the Russian neo-Nazi Denis Kapustin, also known as Denis Nikitin, has been barred from entering the European Union for ten years, he said.
Banning such groups from Facebook and other major platforms would potentially limit their access to new audiences, but it could also drive them deeper underground, making it more difficult to monitor their activities, he said.
“It’s dangerous because they can recruit people,” he said. “Prohibiting those accounts would interrupt their contact with their audience, but the key figures and their ideology won’t be gone.”
Thorsten Hindrichs, an expert in Germany’s far-right music scene who teaches at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, said there’s a danger that the apparently harmless appearance of Germany’s right-wing music heavyweights on Facebook and Twitter, which they mostly use to promote their brands, could help normalize the image of extremists.
Extreme right concerts in Germany were drawing around 2 million euros ($2.3 million) a year in revenue before the coronavirus pandemic, he estimated, not counting sales of CDs and branded merchandise. He said kicking extremist music groups off Facebook is unlikely to hit sales too hard, as there are other platforms they can turn to, like Telegram and Gab, to reach their followers. “Right-wing extremists aren’t stupid. They will always find ways to promote their stuff,” he said.
None of these groups’ activity on mainstream platforms is obviously illegal, though it may violate Facebook guidelines that bar “dangerous individuals and organizations” that advocate or engage in violence online or offline. Facebook says it doesn’t allow praise or support of Nazism, white supremacy, white nationalism or white separatism and bars people and groups that adhere to such “hate ideologies.”
Last week, Facebook  removed almost 150 accounts and pages linked to the German anti-lockdown Querdenken movement, under a new “social harm” policy, which targets groups that spread misinformation or incite violence but didn’t fit into the platform’s existing categories of bad actors.
But how these evolving rules will be applied remains murky and contested.
“If you do something wrong on the platform, it’s easier for a platform to justify an account suspension than to just throw someone out because of their ideology. That would be more difficult with respect to human rights,” said Daniel Holznagel, a Berlin judge who used to work for the German federal government on hate speech issues and also  contributed to CEP’s report. “It’s a foundation of our Western society and human rights that our legal regimes do not sanction an idea, an ideology, a thought.”
In the meantime, there’s news from the folks at the Battle of the Nibelungs. “Starting today you can also dress your smallest ones with us,” reads a June post on their Facebook feed. The new line of kids wear includes a shell-pink T-shirt for girls, priced at 13.90 euros ($16). A child pictured wearing the boy version, in black, already has boxing gloves on.


Caught on camera: Kremlin releases photos of Putin’s Siberian fishing trip

Updated 14 min 8 sec ago

Caught on camera: Kremlin releases photos of Putin’s Siberian fishing trip

  • Vladimir Putin has cultivated a macho image, appealing to many Russians

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin spent several days hiking and fishing in Siberia in early September, the Kremlin said on Sunday as it published pictures of the president on the holiday.
A caption under one of the 20 pictures published on the Kremlin web site said the president stopped for a few days in Siberia after a working trip to Russia’s Far East in early September.
Several days later, in the middle of September Putin said he would have to spend “a few days” in self-isolation after dozens of people in his entourage fell ill with COVID-19. He had to cancel his trip to Tajikistan for a security summit.
Putin has cultivated a macho image, appealing to many Russians, and has previously been pictured riding a horse barechested and in sun glasses, as well as carrying a hunting rifle and piloting a fighter jet.
This time, his outings were more mundane.
The Kremlin published photos of Putin standing in a river and catching a fish, walking through lush meadows and talking to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, his usual holiday companion.
Putin, 68, has had two shots of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. The Kremlin has said he was feeling healthy.


Delhi Capitals back on top of IPL with 33-run win against Rajasthan Royals

Updated 26 September 2021

Delhi Capitals back on top of IPL with 33-run win against Rajasthan Royals

  • Delhi has 16 points from 10 games, two points more than second-placed Chennai Super Kings

ABU DHABI: Delhi Capitals returned to the top of the Indian Premier League with a 33-run victory over Rajasthan Royals on Saturday.
Delhi scored 154-6 after being asked to bat, its innings propelled by Shreyas Iyer’s 32-ball 43, captain Rishabh Pant’s run-a-ball 24 and Shimron Hetmyer’s 28 runs off 16 deliveries.
Rajasthan could only reach 121-6 in reply after collapsing to 6-2 in the second over and 48-4 in the 11th. Rajasthan captain Sanju Samson restored stability to the innings with a 53-ball 70 not out.
“I thought the total was chasable but we lost too many wickets and weren’t able to get any momentum,” Samson said.
Anrich Nortje returned figures of 2-18 from four overs.
Delhi has 16 points from 10 games, two points more than second-placed Chennai Super Kings which has played a game less. Rajasthan has eight points from nine games.
In the second game on Saturday, Punjab Kings beat last-placed Sunrisers Hyderabad by five runs at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
Punjab moved to fifth place in the eight-team IPL after being put into bat and scoring 125-7, before containing Hyderabad to 120-7 in 20 overs.
Jason Holder was the biggest threat to Punjab, taking 3-19 with the ball and scoring 47 not out off 29 deliveries with the bat, including five sixes. But it wasn’t enough.
Hyderabad is out of playoff contention following its eighth defeat in nine games.


Overmatched All European ‘need a couple miracles’ to keep Ryder Cup

Updated 26 September 2021

Overmatched All European ‘need a couple miracles’ to keep Ryder Cup

  • The Europeans trail captain Steve Stricker’s young and hungry US squad 11-5

He can’t clone Jon Rahm. He can’t make any last-minute substitutions. He can’t sneak up and cut the laces on the Americans’ golf shoes or super-glue the head covers to their drivers.
All European captain Padraig Harrington can do at this point is post the lineup card, recite a few lines from Winston Churchill’s “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” speech, wave his guys on their way Sunday morning and then pray. A lot.
Harrington knocked that first task off his to-do list late Saturday, predictably front-loading his lineup in a desperate bid to gain momentum and then somehow sustain it through the dozen singles matches. The Europeans trail captain Steve Stricker’s young and hungry US squad 11-5, and no team has ever come back from a deficit of more than four points.
Worse, after losing seven of the last nine cups, the Americans are out for revenge.
“They have run the score up on us before,” said Tony Finau. “And if we have the opportunity, we are going to run it up on them tomorrow.”
Avoiding embarrassment is a reasonable goal. Englishman Ian Poulter, hardly exaggerating Europe’s chances for a comeback, put it this way: “We need a couple of miracles.”
What the Europeans really need is a dozen players like Rahm, the steely eyed Spaniard who currently sits atop the world rankings. He has won all three of his team matches alongside countryman Sergio Garcia and tied the fourth, practically carrying England’s Tyrrell Hatton on his back.
“The team is playing good,” said Rahm, being more gracious than candid. Half of Europe’s squad has failed to contribute so much as a half-point. “Just putts not dropping in and a couple things here and there that just could happen that haven’t happened. I’d like to believe that things even out.
“Golf is a very complicated and ironic and sarcastic game sometimes,” Rahm added a moment later, “and teams can be capable of some great things, like the US has done so far the last two days. It could be our chance.”
Momentum is everything on the final day of the Ryder Cup. Anyone who has watched the scoreboard change colors like the temperature gauge in an overheating car knows how quickly a cushion can become a hot seat. Think of how fast the Europeans, holding a 10-6 lead, slid down the drain just ahead of American Justin Leonard’s putt at Brookline in 1999. Or the way the Europeans similarly turned the tables in 2012, erasing that same deficit for an improbable win at Medinah.
“I think we learned a lot of lessons from 2012,” said Stricker, who played on that team and lost his singles match to Martin Kaymer. “Probably the thing I can say is that we didn’t do a good job then putting our lineup out on Sunday. ... That was definitely one of the things that we were talking about up there tonight.
“So you know,” he said finally. “it’s hard to say if you got it right or not.”
With eight players ranked among the top 10 in the world and only one outside the top 20 — Scottie Scheffler, at No. 21 — Stricker’s job was picking through an embarrassment of riches.
Xander Schauffle, who went 3-0, leads off against also-winless Rory McIlroy. World No. 2-ranked Dustin Johnson, the squad’s oldest player and the only golfer on either side to go 4-0 through the team matches, will get to sleep in and plays in the sixth match against winless Paul Casey. Daniel Berger, one of six American rookies, wound up in the 12th spot against Matt Fitzpatrick, yet another European without a point.
Except for McIlroy, Harrington lined up all of his winless players in slots 6-12. Rahm plays the third match against Scottie Scheffler, and Garcia goes off fourth against long-hitting Bryson DeChambeau.
“These things can be done,” said Harrington, who played in the 1999 match at Brookline. “It is more of an individual game tomorrow and our job is getting them to focus on winning their point. That’s the biggest thing they can do to help the team.”


Behave normally, UK transport minister tells Britons queuing for fuel

Updated 26 September 2021

Behave normally, UK transport minister tells Britons queuing for fuel

  • Long lines of vehicles formed at petrol stations in recent days as motorists waited in line to fill up with fuel

BRIGHTON, England: Transport Minister Grant Shapps on Sunday called on Britons to behave normally when buying petrol, saying there was no shortage of fuel and the government was stepping in to ease a shortage of drivers bringing it to petrol stations.
In recent days long lines of vehicles formed at petrol stations as motorists waited in line, some for hours, to fill up with fuel after oil firms reported a lack of drivers was causing transport problems from refineries to forecourts, leading some operators to ration supplies and others to close gas stations.
“There’s plenty of fuel, there’s no shortage of the fuel within the country,” he told Sky News.
“So the most important thing is actually that people carry on as they normally would and fill up their cars when they normally would, then you won’t have queues and you won’t have shortages at the pump either.”
The government on Sunday announced a plan to issue temporary visas for 5,000 foreign truck drivers.
But business leaders have warned it is a short-term fix that will not solve an acute labor shortage that risks major disruption beyond fuel deliveries, including for retailers in the run-up to Christmas.
Shapps called the panic over fuel a ‘manufactured situation’ and blamed it on a hauliers’ association.
“They’re desperate to have more European drivers undercutting British salaries,” he said.