The Overflow for July 23rd

International News

All-Clear Signal

A man found dead near a shopping centre in Munich, Germany killed himself and was likely the lone gunman in an attack that killed nine people and injured at least 10 others, a spokesman for the Munich police early this morning. Yesterday police, citing eyewitness accounts, had said they were looking for up to three suspects in the shooting attack at the Munich Olympia Shopping Centre that sent shoppers running for their lives and shut traffic across the city.

But a Munich police spokesman said it was now believed likely that only one man was responsible for the shooting, the third attack against civilians in Western Europe in eight days. "We can give a cautious 'all-clear signal.' It looks like the body found near the OEZ was the gunman," a police spokesman told reporters.

Authorities had told the public to get off the streets as the city - Germany's third biggest - went into lock-down with transport halted and highways sealed off. A police spokesman initially said up to three gunmen were on the run after the shooting. The Bavarian capital was placed under a state of emergency as police hunted for them and special forces deployed in the city.

Police said nine people had been killed and at least 10 were wounded, and around 100 people witnessed the shooting. Authorities found a 10th body about half a mile from the scene that was later determined to be the likely gunman.

"Many shots were fired, I can't say how many but it's been a lot," said a shop worker hiding in a store room inside the mall.

 

Calm Has Returned

Up to 20 people were killed and at least 40 others wounded in two days of fighting in northern Mali between Tuareg rebels and pro-government militia, threatening a shaky year-old peace deal.

The Tuareg-dominated Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) and rival Gatia militia fighters, who had peacefully shared control of the town of Kidal since February, clashed for a second day on Friday before pro-government fighters withdrew. Both groups had signed a United Nations-backed deal a year ago with the government in Bamako, the capital in southern Mali, that was meant to end a decades-long cycle of uprisings and let the army focus on defeating jihadist groups in the desert north.

A nurse at the main health centre in Kidal, one of the largest towns in northern Mali, said she had seen about 20 dead, both at the clinic and on the town's streets. "There are wounded people everywhere. Forty wounded, with four bad cases. One of them was shot in the throat, another in the back, another in the abdomen," a doctor at the health centre told reporters.

Red Cross volunteer Ahamed Ag Mohomedine said he had counted over 15 bodies, adding many wounded had been taken to the Kidal base of Mali's UN peacekeeping mission.

Both armed groups gave death tolls from the fighting that were lopsided in their own favour and could not be independently verified.

Mali's government, which has not had a military presence in Kidal since clashes between the army and Tuareg rebels killed 50 soldiers there in 2014, urged both sides to end the fighting. "The government of the Republic of Mali considers that the situation created by these clashes constitutes a serious threat to the implementation of the peace accord," it said in a statement.

The gunfire had largely subsided by mid-afternoon on Friday, as the CMA claimed to have driven Gatia fighters from Kidal, a traditional stronghold of the Tuareg separatist movement. "We control the town in its entirety along with the surrounding areas. Calm has returned," said CMA spokesman Almou Ag Mohamed.

Two officers in the pro-government militia confirmed that Gatia had withdrawn from the town.

The UN called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and said that it is working with leaders of both groups to mediate the conflict and resume the peace process.

 

The State of Emergency

France's decision to extend a state of emergency for six months undermines human rights and the rule of law, Human Rights Watch said on Friday, joining the country's top magistrate union in criticising the legislation.

French lawmakers approved a six-month extension of emergency rule on Wednesday after last week's truck attack on holiday crowds in the Riviera city. It was the third deadly assault in just 18 months for which Islamist militants have claimed responsibility.

The extension of exceptional search-and-arrest powers for police has met little resistance among French politicians. It was approved by 489 votes to 26 in the lower house of parliament.

"A rolling state of emergency risks trampling rights and eroding the rule of law and sets a dangerous precedent for abuse elsewhere," Letta Tayler, a researcher at Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

France's decision to extend emergency rule - first brought in after the November attacks in Paris that killed 130 people - came just before Turkey declared its own state of emergency after a failed military coup.

In France, the emergency regime allows police to search homes and arrest people without prior consent from judges. It also allows them to tap computer and phone communications more freely.

The human rights group said the new emergency law also introduced what it called troubling counter-terrorism measures into France's criminal code. Those will remain in effect even after the emergency law lapses.

That included the doubling to two years of the period during which children as young as 16 can be detained before trial, it said.

Just hours before the attack in Nice, Hollande had said it would make no sense to extend the emergency regime indefinitely. "That would mean we're no longer a republic," he said in a Bastille Day interview.

 


UK News

The Dramatic Deterioration

Britain's economy is shrinking, the broadest survey of business confidence since last month's historic vote to quit the European Union showed on Friday, leading Chancellor Philip Hammond to pledge a loosening of purse strings if the weakness endures. The Bank of England has also been clear that easing monetary policy may be necessary.

The flash Markit survey of purchasing managers - executives who make spending decisions at 1,250 big firms - fell by the most in its 20-year history. And was consistent with an economy contracting 0.4% in the third quarter, contrasting with an actual reading of plus 0.4 percent in the first quarter.

"July saw a dramatic deterioration in the economy," said Chris Williamson, Markit's chief economist. "The downturn, whether manifesting itself in order book cancellations, a lack of new orders or the postponement or halting of projects, was most commonly attributed in one way or another to Brexit."

The readout, little more than a week after Prime Minister Theresa May formed a new Conservative government, indicates the challenge she faces to maintain market and investor confidence as she embarks on what promise to be long and difficult Brexit talks.

Hammond played down the purchasing manager surveys as a measure of sentiment, not of "hard activity", but also said he would act to support the economy when he announces his budget plans later in the year. "Exactly what that framework looks like will depend on the state of the economy at the time of the Autumn (budget) statement. The data that we see over the next three months or so will be crucially important in shaping our response," he told Sky News during a visit to China.

Hammond is attending a weekend meeting of finance ministers from the Group of 20 economies at which counterparts will be keen to hear how Britain can pull off a smooth exit from the EU while minimising the damage to the global economy.

The Markit PMIs, which give an early indication of how gross domestic product is likely to perform, suggest the 1.8 trillion pound UK economy is shrinking faster than at any time since the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

A major concern among businesses is the access Britain will have to the EU's single market after leaving. Britain insists it want to limit freedom of movement of workers; the EU says such freedom is a condition of the single market.

The PMI for the services sector fell to 47.4 in July from 52.3 in June, the steepest drop since records began in 1996 and the worst reading since March 2009, around the low point of the global economic recession. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a much smaller fall to 49.2.

 

Hate Crimes

British police said on Friday there had been almost 6,200 hate crimes reported in the last month following the vote to leave the European Union in a referendum where immigration had been a key issue. In the four weeks from June 16th, police forces across the country said 6,193 offences had been reported, with the most common crimes being harassment, assault and other violence such as verbal abuse or spitting.

Britons voted on June 23 to exit the EU following bitter and deeply divisive campaigning in which the control of immigration was one of the main arguments of those who supported leaving the bloc. Since the result was declared, Muslims and Eastern Europeans say they have been particularly targeted.

The latest figures showed there were 3001 offences in the first two weeks of July, down 6% compared to the previous fortnight but still 20% higher than the same period last year.

"Following increases in hate crime seen after the EU referendum, police forces have been taking a robust approach to these crimes and we are pleased to see the numbers of incidents have begun to fall," Mark Hamilton, the National Police Chiefs' Council spokesman on hate crimes. 

"Clearly any hate crime is unacceptable and these numbers are still far too high." 

Critics of the "Leave" campaign say its focus on immigration helped stoke xenophobia and racism, an accusation its leaders reject. A week before the vote, opposition Labour lawmaker Jo Cox, a strong supporter of remaining in the EU, was shot and stabbed to death in her constituency in northern England.

 


Long Read

The world of Bigfoot exploration may not be extensive, but for Bob Gimlin, it is his life. Gimlin is the quintessential cowboy - a rodeo man with a slow drawl and a big pickup truck. He has also spent his life roaming the US northwest for the mythical Bigfoot, a legend that he and his friend, Roger Patterson, claim to have caught on film in 1967. This piece talks about how he has dedicated his life to the quest.

Sometimes attaining the deepest familiarity with a question is our best substitute for actually having the answer.
— Brian Greene