Category Archives: News

Jihadists launch deadly hotel assault

At least 10 people killed in an ongoing raid on a hotel in Somalia

An attack on a popular hotel in the Somali capital has left several people dead, according to police and witnesses, with a rebel militia group detonating explosives outside before gunmen stormed the building. A gun battle with security forces is ongoing as of Saturday morning.

The assault on the upscale Hayat hotel in Mogadishu kicked off late on Friday and was soon claimed by al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda linked jihadist group based in Somalia. After blasting their way into the building, armed fighters then ran inside and have continued a shootout with police since.

“A huge blast went off a few minutes before the gunmen forced their way into the hotel,” security official Abdukadir Hassan told AFP, adding that “the security forces are now engaging with the enemy who are holed up inside the building.”

While many details about the attack remain unclear, police and eyewitnesses cited by the Associated Press said at least 10 civilians had been killed thus far. No victims have yet been identified by the government. 

Another Somalia official cited by AFP, Mohamed Abdikadir, noted that police had “rescued dozens of civilians including children who were trapped in the building.” How many people were inside the hotel at the time of the attack has not been clarified, nor the number that currently remain there.

Shots could still be heard ringing out around the hotel early on Saturday, with security forces saying they are attempting to contain the last remaining gunmen. It is also unknown how many entered the building or are still inside, however.

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Arrival of first Somalian aid convoy under US Marines escort, 1992
Biden sends US troops back to Somalia

Formed in 2006 in the wake of years of civil war in Somalia, al-Shabaab has grown increasingly radical over the years, and in 2012 pledged an oath of allegiance to the infamous al-Qaeda terrorist cell. The United States has repeatedly targeted the group with airstrikes, and has cited the faction as a major reason for America’s on-off troop presence in the country. 

Though former President Donald Trump previously ordered all US soldiers to leave Somalia, he did not completely end operations there, with troops continuing to commute to the country for missions. President Joe Biden recently reversed that decision and redeployed several hundred soldiers, however, and the Pentagon has declared the need for a “persistent US military presence in Somalia to enable a more effective fight against al-Shabaab.” The US military has also continued air operations and claimed to have killed some 17 Shabaab fighters in multiple strikes this month alone.

Musk seeks more brain chip tech – media

The billionaire Neuralink executive is reportedly mulling an investment into a rival brain chip firm

Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk is considering an investment into Synchron, a brain chip developer which competes with his own similar company, Neuralink, according to Reuters.

Musk has reached out to Synchron’s founder and CEO Thomas Oxley in recent weeks to explore a possible venture, four people familiar with the discussions told the outlet, though noted that the talks are far from finalized and it is yet unclear whether a deal will be made.

Based in New York City, Synchron is several steps ahead of Neuralink in securing regulatory approval to test its brain implants in humans, receiving the green light from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year. Before that, it conducted a separate round of human trials on four people in Australia, gleaning valuable data for future tests.

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Elon Musk nears human testing of brain chip

While Musk has repeatedly hinted at human tests for the Neuralink in the near future, they have yet to be authorized for that use and it is not known where the company currently stands in the regulatory process. In contrast to Synchron’s device, installing the Neuralink requires a major surgical operation involving cuts into the skull, possibly explaining the slower progress.

The talks between Musk and Synchron would not be the first time the billionaire reached out to a rival brain technology company, having held discussions with Paradromics Inc. in 2020, according to Reuters. Those negotiations have since been cut off, however.

Despite the comparative lack of headway with regulators, Neuralink is a significantly larger company, boasting a 300-employee roster and garnering some $363 million in investments since its founding in 2016. Synchron, which was launched the same year, has around 60 workers and has attracted a more modest $65 million from investors.

Americans increasingly see FBI as ‘Biden’s Gestapo’ – poll

New survey suggests declining public opinion of the bureau following a raid on ex-President Donald Trump

A majority of respondents in a new survey have said they view the FBI as President Joe Biden‘s “personal Gestapo,” reflecting increasingly polarized views about the federal policing agency amid an investigation into the former commander in chief. 

A Rasmussen poll published on Thursday showed major divisions in Americans’ attitudes toward the FBI, with 44% of respondents stating a recent raid on Trump’s Florida home made them lose some trust in the bureau. However, a significant 29% said the move only increased their confidence in the FBI, while 23% said it made no difference.

Asked about previous comments by former Trump adviser Roger Stone – who said “politicized thugs at the top of the FBI” are using the agency as “Joe Biden‘s personal Gestapo” – a majority (53%) of those polled agreed, including 34% who concurred “strongly.” That figure is up from 46% last December, though the more recent survey still found 36% disagree with Stone’s characterization. The results were split along party lines, with 76% of Republican and 37% Democrat respondents agreeing with the “Gestapo” claim.

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Armed Secret Service agents stand outside an entrance to former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, Aug. 8, 2022, in Palm Beach, Florida.
Purported purpose of Trump FBI raid revealed

According to officials and an unsealed property receipt, the federal raid on Trump’s Florida home on August 8 was centered on a probe into classified documents allegedly taken from the White House – some of them said to be top-secret and even potentially related to nuclear weapons – with the bureau hoping to recover 11 different sets of material from the residence. It remains unclear what was found in the search, however, and unnamed sources cited by NBC recently said agents will need time to sift through the seized files. 

Trump, for his part, has accused the FBI of a politicized raid, and claimed the agency “stole” his passports and privileged legal documents “which they knowingly should not have taken,” although the passports had since been returned. The former president’s lawyers were not permitted to observe the search of his property, and said FBI agents ordered them to shut off security cameras while it was conducted.

Ukraine calls Germany ‘addict’ then offers hit

As Kiev slams German calls for Nord Stream 2, Ukraine’s gas operator makes a bid to Berlin

Even as Kiev’s Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba condemned the German “addiction” to Russian gas on Friday, the Ukrainian transit operator said it was willing to carry all the Russian energy Berlin might need, for a fee. The conflicting communications from Kiev came after a senior Bundestag official called for the opening of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and as Gazprom informed the EU that Nord Stream 1 would shut down for maintenance at the end of August.

“Calls by some German politicians to launch NS2 for a little while and close it later are totally irrational,” Kuleba tweeted out on Friday, in English. “This resembles drug addiction, when a person says ‘Just one last time!’ without realizing the devastating consequences of each ‘last time.’ Addiction to Russian gas kills!”

While Kuleba did not name any names, a prominent German politician did in fact call for the opening of Nord Stream 2. Wolfgang Kubicki, a Bundestag vice-president from the ranks of the Free Democrats (FDP), said on Thursday that the brand-new pipeline ought to be used to at least fill up Germany’s gas storage for the winter.

“There is no good reason not to open Nord Stream 2,” Kubicki told the broadcaster RND. “If more gas is delivered to us this way, maybe even the entire amount guaranteed by the contract, it will help people not to freeze in winter, and our industry will not suffer serious damage.”

READ MORE: Top German politician makes Nord Stream 2 plea

Last month, several mayors of towns on the German island of Ruegen wrote to Berlin demanding a review of the energy policy and suggesting using NS2.

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Russian gas transit to EU via Nord Stream to be halted – Gazprom

Germany faced more bad news on Friday, as Gazprom sent a notice that NS1, the pipeline currently delivering Russian natural gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea, will be shutting down for required maintenance at the end of the month. Repairs are supposed to take three days.

While Ukraine’s foreign minister was denouncing German “addicts,” the country’s gas transit operator GTS offered to deliver their next “hit.” In a statement on Friday afternoon, the company said it was “possible to compensate for interruptions in the operation of the Nord Stream in other ways, namely, using transit corridors through Ukraine and Poland.”

GTS is currently using “less than 40% of the already reserved capacity via Ukraine under the transit agreement with Gazprom,” the company said. What it did not mention, however, is that this was partly due to their own declaration of force majeure in early May, telling Gazprom they would not accept any deliveries – and would confiscate any excess flow – through a pumping station in Lugansk that accounted for about a third of all gas transit through Ukraine.

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Nord Stream gas turbine
Stranded Russian turbine offered emotional support

The original Nord Stream was built in 2011-12, with Western technology that currently falls under the US-EU embargo against Russia. Construction on NS2, intended to double the Baltic route’s capacity, began in 2018. It did not get finished until September 2021, mainly due to additional US sanctions and pressure from Ukraine and Poland, who stood to lose billions in transit fees.

The pipeline is fully functional but needs certification by German authorities to begin operations. Berlin froze the certification process on February 22, citing Moscow’s recognition of the Donbass republics.

German official suggests shower hack

Green state leader calls washcloth a “useful invention”

When threatened by an energy crunch, people can save a lot by using a washcloth instead of taking showers “all the time,” the head of the German state of Baden-Württemberg Winfried Kretschmann said in an interview on Friday.  

Kretschmann, a Green, runs the southwestern German state bordering France and Switzerland, with some 11 million residents. Porsche and Mercedes-Benz have their headquarters in the state capital of Stuttgart. Speaking to the Südwest Presse newspaper about the energy crisis Germany is currently facing, Kretschmann revealed what steps he personally takes to avoid wasting energy.   

The minister-president said he had a “huge” solar power rig on the roof of his house, drove an electric car, and only heated a single room, which he called a “healthier” habit anyway. When asked if he also took cold showers, Kretschmann said he did even better. 

You don’t have to shower all the time. There’s the washcloth, after all – a useful invention.

Almost two thirds of Germans have already reduced their time in the shower in response to repeated government appeals to do so, according to last month’s poll by research institute INSA. 

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Most Germans shower less now – media

Noting the increase in heating costs was not as problematic for people of his income bracket, Kretschmann did admit that some Germans could not make ends meet without government aid. However, he argued that the Covid-19 pandemic has shown the German government will be there for people hit the hardest by the crisis.  

This time there would be some “loss in terms of prosperity,” Kretschmann said. “We all have to adjust to that.”

Germany is facing a dire energy crunch as gas shipments from Russia, its biggest supplier, are steadily declining due to technical issues arising from Ukraine-related sanctions. Scrambling to mitigate the growing crisis, both the federal government and the states have been urging citizens to lower energy consumption by turning down their air conditioners and using less hot water.

READ MORE: Germany at risk of deindustrialization – Bloomberg

Berlin has started reviving coal power plants, slapped an additional levy on gas use, and is reportedly considering keeping its remaining nuclear reactors online past their scheduled phaseout this year.