The Arab-Israeli conflict boiled over this week in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens, followed by the reported reprisal killing of a Palestinian youth. Hamas and Israeli authorities have signaled a willingness to reciprocate should the other side hold fire, but the Israeli army has mobilized troops and says it’s ready to protect Israel’s citizens against any threat. On Sunday, police arrested six people believed to be connected with the murder of the Palestinian teenager.
The Presidential Daily Brief
John Kerry will travel to Beijing on Monday for the sixth U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. The stakes are especially high this year considering that China is poised to overtake the U.S. as the world’s biggest economy. What’s more, Chinese hackles have been raised by the Obama administration’s open support for Japan in disputes over the South China Sea. Chinese President Xi Jinping wants the U.S. to view China more objectively, ambiguously calling for the two nations to “plant more flowers, not thorns.”
Concern is growing over the number of foreign-born men joining extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. West Point researchers suggest that, unlike politically motivated Syrians, foreign militants have fundamental religious aims, including martyrdom. So they have little incentive to negotiate for peace and may represent a long-term threat elsewhere. Germany, for one, has identified that prisons are becoming Salafist recruitment hubs and wants to remedy the problem before jihadists returning from Syria are incarcerated in German jails.
Has the Supreme Court “ventured into a minefield,” as Justice Ginsburg suggested? That’s the fear in the wake of its ruling that family owned firms don’t have to cover birth control if it violates the owners’ religion, thereby exempting them from Obamacare’s contraceptive coverage requirement. Since the ruling, a Christian college has been given a temporary exemption from the law’s birth control provision. Many wonder where the line will be drawn between legality and religious belief.
Ukraine recaptures rebel stronghold. (BBC)
ISIS leader makes rare public appearance. (NYT)
Kenyan Lamu region hit by deadly attacks. (BBC)
Ky. Baptist church plans first gay wedding. (USA Today)
Federer, Djokovic face off in Wimbledon final. (The Guardian)
The world is facing its worst-ever Ebola outbreak. Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia are on the front lines, with more than 450 deaths in recent months. The tragedies are compounded by the fact that the virus is sowing social divisions comparable to those seen in the early days of HIV/AIDS. In Sierra Leone, for example, the stigma is so bad that victims and their relatives have become pariahs, and the risk of infection has prompted some health workers to strike.
What really happened in the collapsed mine where 33 Chilean miners survived for 69 days? Four years later, the world remembers the Copiapó accident as a triumph of the human spirit, but the terrible details of the experience — with men subsisting on as little as one cookie every two days — are often glossed over. Many survivors, who relied heavily on prayer and camaraderie, have since become bitter and divided, struggling to manage their trauma and newfound celebrity.
Western society has long celebrated the simple ways of farm folk, but has our farming romance gone too far? Farmers welcome the supplementary income they receive from pricey weddings and parties held on their “rustic” properties, but some fear that the growth of agritourism is damaging agriculture itself. Romanticizing farm life masks the reality that productive farms are more like smelly factories than pastoral landscapes, and they should stay that way.
The Chelsea Hotel may once have been New York’s artistic hub, but new ownership and rising property prices have all but driven out Manhattan’s artists. Two retrospective accounts of the hotel — home to Arthur Miller, Patti Smith, Leonard Cohen and others — tell very different stories. Sherill Tippins paints a rosy picture of narcotically glowing creative harmony. But James Lough portrays tragic dissolution, reminding us that so many intoxicated guests fell down the hotel’s stairs that management was forced to board them up.
Riding the wave of his questionably misogynistic “Blurred Lines,” Robin Thicke lays bare the details of his broken marriage in his new album, “Paula.” The crooner claims it’s an attempt to reconcile with his wife, but it’s impossible to imagine she’s anything but humiliated by having her dirty laundry aired against a background of jaunty pop. Thicke tries to paint himself as Romeo pining for Juliet, but one reviewer has labeled it an obsessive crossing of even the blurriest line.
Just how magical is Lionel Messi? Benjamin Morris ran the numbers on 8,335 players, and it turns out that the Argentinian’s 407 career goals are only a fraction of the story. Measuring goal scoring, goal assists, passing accuracy, defensive play and six other aspects, Morris concludes that no other player on earth comes close to the 27-year-old’s dominance. Eyeing this week’s semi-final, Argentinian fans are demanding the impossible from Messi. Thankfully, he’s proven he can deliver just that.