GUNS AND BOMBS KILLED SCORES OF PEOPLE IN IRAQ
Most of the attacks targeted Shi'ite Muslims, worsening fears of another sectarian bloodbath
At least 80 people have been killed across Iraq in a wave of car bombings and shootings.
The violence seemed to mainly target Iraq's Shi'ite Muslim community, who were out celebrating the end of Ramadan, and was the latest of many recent attacks by Sunni Islamist militants in an insurgency against the country's Shi'ite-led government.
Saturday saw bombs rip through parks, markets and shopping streets – attacks that the state department described as having all the hallmarks of al-Qaeda's Iraq branch (AQI) – and, on Sunday, gunmen killed two and injured two at a checkpoint manned by a Sunni militia, with more gunmen killing two and injuring three in a busy park in the town of Balad.
The attacks follow news from the UN that more than 1,000 Iraqis were killed in July, making it the highest monthly death toll since 2008.
This, and the renewed violence between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims, is worsening fears that the country might descend into a repeat of the sectarian bloodbath between 2006 to 2007 that killed tens of thousands of people.
WESTFIELDS EAST AND WEST ARE THE UK'S MOST CRIME-RIDDEN POSTCODES
Buy a crepe, try on some Air Force Ones, punch a teenager in the face
New Home Office crime statistics have revealed Westfields Stratford and Shepherds Bush to be the UK's first and second worst hotspots for crime respectively.
Between January of 2012 and July of 2013 there were 3,440 recorded offences in Meridian Square – the location of Westfield, Stratford – and 2,524 in Westfield, Shepherds Bush.
A sizeable chunk of those numbers were shoplifting and theft, which makes sense considering the locations are two of Britain's largest shopping centres, but also account for a worrying amount of violent crime, including last year's fatal stabbing of 24-year-old Liam Woodards in the Stratford Westfield.
In a damning blow for some other large London-based institutions, the worst location for car crime was the Edmonton branch of Ikea and the area with the highest amount of drugs offences was Victoria coach station.
The mildly good news – if you live in London, that is – is that crime is apparently down by seven percent compared to last year.
But that still doesn't change the fact that six of the UK's top ten locations for criminal offences were in the capital, and that if you fancy the convenience of buying an Accessorize necklace while you wait for your Nando's at Westfield, you're supposedly running the ever-present risk of having your wallet stolen or your face punched in.
Peace Talk Build-Ups
ISRAEL JUST AUTHORISED 1,200 NEW HOMES TO BE BUILT IN SETTLEMENTS
Which seems like a pretty contentious thing to do in the run-up to some pretty contentious peace talks
Construction of an Israeli settlement in Alfei Menashe, near the West Bank city of Qalqilya. (Photo by Andy Tenido)
In the build-up to the US-brokered peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine, Israel's housing minister Uri Ariel announced the resumption of building work on 1,200 homes for Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
If you've been keeping up with the decades-old conflict between the two countries, you'll know that Israeli settlements in disputed Palestinian land isn't something that Palestinians are overly keen on.
However, the announcement looks to be a tit-for-tat move after Israel said they would release 104 long-term Palestinian prisoners – something likely to create a more positive attitude towards the talks on the Palestinian side, which is why Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas insisted on the release before returning to the negotiating table.
Palestinian finance minister Yair Lapid described Ariel's announcement as a "big mistake" and said it was "not conducive for the peace process", while negotiator Mohammad Shtayyeh said it was "clear that the Israeli government is deliberately attempting to sabotage US and international efforts to resume negotiations by approving more settlement units three days before the first Palestinian-Israeli meeting".
On the other side of the dispute, a small group of Israelis – some of whom are related to victims of attacks by Palestinians – protested against the prisoners' release in Jerusalem, with one saying, "The government promised not to enter into negotiations with preconditions, but they gave in and did so with the toughest precondition of all – freeing traitor terrorists. We've never sunk this low."
Negotiations were never going to be easy; normal Israelis and Palestinians seem to think they're utterly pointless and all these contentious, last-minute moves seem destined to ruin everything before talks even begin, but begin they will – on Wednesday, in fact – so stand by to see if Israel will get on board with Palestine and America's suggestions and try to forge a peaceful future for the region.
SEBASTIAN COE AND DAVID CAMERON DISMISSED THE IDEA OF BOYCOTTING RUSSIA'S OLYMPICS
Don't worry – they're not into the anti-gay stuff, they just think a boycott would be "ludicrous"
Sebastian Coe, Boris Johnson and David Cameron. (Photo via)
Both David Cameron and Lord Sebastian Coe have rejected calls for a boycott of next year's Winter Olympics in Sochi in response to Russia's new anti-gay laws.
Lord Coe, who is the chairman of the British Olympic Association, called it a "ludicrous proposition" and said that boycotts don't work, arguing that the only damage caused will be to the athletes unable to participate.
However, he failed to mention the very real physical damage already being inflicted on Russia's gay population in the form of an increased number of homophobic attacks since the new laws were introduced.
David Cameron said he shared the "deep concern" about the treatment of gay people in Russia, but claimed, "we can better challenge prejudice as we attend, rather than [boycott] the Winter Olympics".
Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, said that it was awaiting "clarification" on a few paragraphs of the Russian anti-gay law before commenting further.
TWO INMATES TURNED A POLICE VAN INTO A CONJUGAL LOVE NEST
Because why not?
While being transported to a Las Vegas jail, Carlisa Brookins – who'd been arrested on drugs charges – allegedly performed oral sex on fellow prisoner Alexis Garcia, whose arrest record includes several possession charges and an arrest for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.
The pair, along with eight other prisoners, were sitting on opposite sides of the van in belly constraints, so their corrections officer was understandably surprised when he saw Brookins leaning over into Garcia's lap.
When the officer turned on the light in the back of the van, Brookins apparently sat up immediately and stressed that she wasn't a prostitute because she hadn't charged Garcia.
Enforcing Brookins' claim that it was purely a genuinely romantic encounter rather than prostitution, another inmate sitting in the van reportedly heard Garcia tell Brookins, "I'll get you off before we hit downtown."
After being rumbled, both were taken back to the Clark County Detention Centre and booked for voluntary sex with an inmate.